Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Monday, February 10, 2014
John Elway says he applauds Michael Sam

By Jeff Legwold

John Elway was a Hall of Fame quarterback as a player and now is charged by Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen to build the team's roster as an executive.

So, Elway knows what goes on in an NFL locker room as well as the decisions that are made to put the players in one. And Monday, Elway said Missouri defensive end Michael Sam’s announcement that he is gay would have no impact on the team’s evaluation of Sam as a player or Sam's draft status with the team.

"I applaud Michael Sam and wish him the very best as he continues the pursuit of his NFL dream," Elway said. "As we look toward the combine and draft, we will evaluate Michael just like any other draft prospect -- on the basis of his ability, character and NFL potential. His announcement will have no effect on how we see him as a football player."

Elway also added, "Having spent 16 years in an NFL locker room, the bottom line is that it's about treating others with respect and earning that respect. By all indications, it appears Michael has done just that throughout his football career."

Sam was the Southeastern Conference's co-Defensive Player of the Year when he finished with 19 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Missouri finished 12-2, including a loss to Auburn in the SEC Championship Game, as well as a 41-31 victory over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl.

Sam played a defensive end spot in the Tigers' 4-3 defense. The Broncos also play a 4-3 much of the time with undersized rushers like linebacker Von Miller playing at the defensive end spot in some pass-rush situations.

Sam measured in at 6-foot-1 5/8-inches, 260 pounds at the Senior Bowl last month. The Broncos didn't use any players at an edge-rusher spot shorter than 6-3 this past season. While the Broncos do use the 6-3, 250-pound Miller in pass-rush situations, Miller also plays the traditional strong-side linebacker spot on early downs. In that same situation for Sam, that would be a potential transition, playing the run from off the line of scrimmage as well as dropping into coverage, to a linebacker spot with the Broncos.  

But the Broncos have evaluated Sam heavily given the conference he plays in and the sack numbers he posted in what is considered the most powerful conference in the nation.

Elway did not release a formal statement, but offered his thoughts after several requests were made to the team from Denver media.