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Inside Slant: CFL will give Michael Sam a fair platform, once and for all

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Smart move for Michael Sam to sign with CFL?

ESPN NFL Insider Ashley Fox discusses Michael Sam's two-year deal with the Montreal Alouettes.

(For all Inside Slant posts, follow this link.)

Here are the facts on the professional football career of Michael Sam, the sport's first openly gay active player:

  • He last played in a game nearly nine months ago, on Aug. 28, 2014.

  • He has never been on an NFL regular-season roster and hasn't been on a practice squad since Oct. 21, 2014.

  • His performance at the NFL veteran combine in March exacerbated concerns about his speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.07 seconds, within range for an offensive lineman but certainly not for an NFL pass-rusher.

  • No team is known to have expressed interest before or after the draft.

That profile, regardless of what you think formed it, lends itself to only one avenue. The NFL isn't happening, at least not now, not until Sam does something to change the perception of his game. To extend his career, Sam needed to find a place to play rather than simply practice or submit to workouts. Signing with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, as Sam did Friday, was the best and probably only move he could make.

The Alouettes begin their preseason schedule June 13. The rest is up to Sam. He'll get competitive game action to create fresh film. NFL personnel departments routinely review CFL games, mining for talent at all points of the year, and recent history provides us several examples of players who sourced their ultimate route to the NFL through Canada.

The most notable example is Cameron Wake, who spent part of training camp with the New York Giants in 2005 before being released. He didn't resurface until 2007, when he signed with British Columbia. After registering 39 sacks in two seasons, he signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2009 and has emerged as one of the NFL's most feared pass-rushers.

There have been others, as well. The Seattle Seahawks plucked cornerback Brandon Browner, who went undrafted in 2005, from Calgary after four seasons there. And remember the stunning performance of Seahawks receiver Chris Matthews in Super Bowl XLIX? Matthews, undrafted in 2011, first played in the Arena Football League before moving to Winnipeg of the CFL in 2012. The Seahawks signed him last year.

Of course, the CFL has rendered far more negative verdicts for NFL hopefuls than success stories. As it has for many others, this opportunity could well demonstrate that Sam simply isn't good enough to play in the NFL. But absent an injury, the CFL will give Sam a fair platform to demonstrate exactly what he is, or isn't, as a football player. That's all anyone can ask for.