Lions applaud Michael Sam for courage

February, 10, 2014
Feb 10
4:25
PM ET
The Detroit Lions have issued a statement and like other teams in the NFL, plan on treating Missouri defensive end Michael Sam like every other prospect in the NFL draft.

Among the teams that have offered similar statements about Sam are the Packers and Giants.

"As an organization and football team, the Detroit Lions place the highest priority on inclusiveness and diversity," Lions team president Tom Lewand said in a statement. "We applaud Michael Sam for his courage and proactive approach, and we will evaluate him, like every player, based solely on his ability to help the Lions win football games."

This is where it gets trickier for the Lions.

Sam doesn't really fit into the Lions system, which is a true 4-3. Sam is rated as the No. 119 player on the Scouts.Inc board and the No. 14 defensive end.

But at 6-foot-1 5/8, 260 pounds, he doesn't fit what the Lions have looked for in their defensive ends, which is typically taller, lankier frames. He also wouldn't fit what the Lions would look for in a 4-3 linebacker.

He is better fit for a 3-4 system, and new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said last week that the team will continue to primarily run a 4-3.

"We're going to probably stay more in a 4-3 in terms of what we have personnel-wise," Austin said. "So, our pressures with our linebackers will be coming from different angles, different things that way instead of a per-say ‘rush' linebacker that I'm used to dealing with.

"I think we have some guys that probably have some ability to rush the passer from off the ball, and we'll look at those things as we get going in our offseason and OTAs."

That said, the Lions have taken the approach of best player available in the past, so if the team deems Sam the best player available in the later rounds, after some of their more glaring needs are met, perhaps the team would draft him later on during Day 3.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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