- John Keim, ESPN Washington Redskins reporter
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Michael Sam is a potential 3-4 outside linebacker who happens to be gay, and potentially the first openly gay player in the NFL.
But come draft time the Redskins need to ask themselves one question: Can he help them?
He’s a potential 3-4 outside linebacker who would need time to develop based on the descriptions of his play. Sam posted big numbers at Missouri this past season as a defensive end: 11.5 sacks; SEC Defensive Player of the Year; first-team All-American. Clearly he has talent.
What the Redskins need are good, young pass rushers. Do they have enough? He would be a project, like any player who must make the transition from college left end to 3-4 outside linebacker. That means being able to play in space and drop into coverage. He’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds. By comparison, Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, the Redskins’ starting outside linebackers both are 6-foot-4 (as is top reserve Rob Jackson) and weigh around 260 pounds as well.
Sam most likely is a mid-round draft choice at best, based on scouting reviews before his recent news.
Sam’s play at the Senior Bowl received mixed reviews. But Falcons linebackers coach Bryan Cox said to reporters during the week about Sam that he had “Good athleticism. You know what he was in college in terms of big plays that he made for Missouri. And you look at the [Cotton] bowl game when he had the big strip at the end of the game to win it for the team. So you know that he has some pass-rush ability
“You're looking for his versatility; kind of showcase his ability to play linebacker as well as playing the defensive front. He's just trying to showcase who he is. He's a very talented guy."
Would the organization want to draft an openly gay player? Consider the history: A former Redskin, Dave Kopay, was the first ex-NFL player to reveal his sexual orientation.
General manager Bruce Allen’s father, George, coached former Redskin Jerry Smith. George Allen later sent a letter to Smith after he learned he had contracted AIDS.
In A Football Life: Jerry Smith, Bruce Allen read parts of the letter, “You not only were the very best tight end the Redskins ever had, you also were the toughest. Like we always said, no matter how many setbacks you have had keep fighting. I want you ready for my next team. That one will be called the Over the Hill Gang.”
And the Redskins alumni invited Smith’s sister and her son to a recent homecoming game.
Allen also said on the show, “He’s in our ring of honor and has been there for a number of years. His contributions to the Washington Redskins on the field and off the field will never be forgotten.”
Not that this has anything to do with the team now.
Doug Williams was just hired Monday as a Redskins personnel executive. So it’s not as if he speaks for the entire organization. But I’d be surprised if others differed with what he said.
“We have to take our hats off to the young guy,” Williams said. “He did something that takes a lot of courage. I’m sure he thinks it could hurt his draft status. It could help. But the locker room is what it is. For five years this guy has been in a locker room and [his teammates] put their arms around him and had a heck of a season, which means it wasn’t a big deal to them. At the NFL level the bottom line is where does he rate as a player. Russell Wilson won the Super Bowl and nobody talked about him being black. Eventually we have to get to that point when we talk about people’s sexuality.
“We all understand there will be some knuckleheads out there. That won’t ever change. But you have to understand society has changed enough over the last 10 to 15 years and you have to accept people for what they are.”
Michael Sam is a potential 3-4 outside linebacker who happens to be gay, and potentially the first openly gay player in the NFL.But come draft time the Redskins need to ask themselves one question: Can he help them?