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Extra Points: Sam's hurdle is distraction, not sexuality

By John McMullen, NFL Editor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam is on his way to becoming the first openly gay player in the NFL after announcing his sexual orientation Sunday in a serious of media interviews, three months before he hopes to enter the league as a draft-eligible prospect.

In the coming days and weeks, you will be told Sam's "activism" was a milestone with significant social and cultural consequences. In reality, it was young man who is regarded as a second- or third-day selection, trying to get out in front of a story which will be viewed as a distraction by more than a few NFL teams.

"I am an openly, proud gay man," Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, told ESPN. "I understand how big this is. It's a big deal. No one has done this before. And it's kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be ... I want to be a football player in the NFL."

In Sam's mind, it was a necessary step because he had already confessed his sexuality to teammates at the Mizzou, a fact that any prospective employer would have likely been made aware of while doing due diligence in the draft profess.

"I didn't realize how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me," he said. "I want to own my truth. ... No one else should tell my story but me."

Sam will get his chance, but there is little question his draft stock will take something of a hit in the coming weeks.

Not for the reasons many believe, however.

The undersized Sam was rated as a mid- to late-round draft pick prior to the announcement, which has already generated significant publicity and is sure to generate much more scrutiny for the team which actually drafts him, not exactly a scenario most NFL coaches crave when comparing potential bubble prospects.

Yet it's far easier and more convenient for critics to say that the NFL locker room culture is unwelcoming to homosexuality. It's also a lazy and myopic viewpoint which fails to recognize the ultimate goal of any organization -- winning.

The prevailing wisdom remains that an openly gay player won't be accepted in a locker room full of Richie Incognitios, who prey on the sensitive people of the world.

And let's be honest, every single football locker room from high school on up to the Dallas Cowboys has an Incognito-type meathead who evolution forgot or at least skipped over to a certain degree.

Men jest. They joke and they needle. It can range from something as small as being whipped by another player's girlfriend to something as potentially harmful as race or sexuality. Yet many, including Sam, remain very protective of the culture

"Hopefully, it will be the same like my locker room (at Mizzou)," he said. "It's a workplace. if you've ever been in a Division I or pro locker room, it's a business place. You want to act professional."

The truth is Sam -- like every other player -- has already been taunted and heckled at times in the locker room environment, but why do we assume a 6- foot-2, 260-pound man wasn't able to give as good as he gets?

That's a question that should be posed to every activist in the world, who are convinced any potential gay player being ostracized by those big bad troglodytes is a shrinking violet.

"If you led the SEC with 11 1/2 sacks and 19 tackles for losses. If a gay person did that, I wouldn't call that person weak," Sam said.

The truth is if Sam was regarded as a top-10 talent before the announcement, he would have still been viewed as one after it.

That's not to say some weaker organizations, who shy away from any added public relations nuisance wouldn't have thought twice about snaring him, but a big-time player is going to get the benefit of the doubt in plenty of scenarios and sexuality sure beats things like drug or legal issues.

Most scouts peg Sam's ceiling in the draft as a third-round pick, with a possible position switch to outside linebacker.

"I just want to go to the team who drafts me," Sam said, "because that team knows about me, knows that I'm gay, and also knows that I work hard. That's the team I want to go to."

That team, however, doesn't want to know if Sam is gay. They do want to know if he can rush the passer.

02/10 12:53:38 ET

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Standings

 2013 American Football Conference Standings 
East Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-New England 12 4 0 .750 444 338 8-0 4-4 4-2 9-3
NY Jets 8 8 0 .500 290 387 6-2 2-6 3-3 5-7
Miami 8 8 0 .500 317 335 4-4 4-4 2-4 7-5
Buffalo 6 10 0 .375 339 388 4-4 2-6 3-3 5-7
 
North Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Cincinnati 11 5 0 .688 430 305 8-0 3-5 3-3 8-4
Pittsburgh 8 8 0 .500 379 370 5-3 3-5 4-2 6-6
Baltimore 8 8 0 .500 320 352 6-2 2-6 3-3 6-6
Cleveland 4 12 0 .250 308 406 3-5 1-7 2-4 3-9
 
South Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Indianapolis 11 5 0 .688 391 336 6-2 5-3 6-0 9-3
Tennessee 7 9 0 .438 362 381 3-5 4-4 2-4 6-6
Jacksonville 4 12 0 .250 247 449 1-7 3-5 3-3 4-8
Houston 2 14 0 .125 276 428 1-7 1-7 1-5 2-10
 
West Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Denver 13 3 0 .813 606 399 7-1 6-2 5-1 9-3
x-Kansas City 11 5 0 .688 430 305 5-3 6-2 2-4 7-5
x-San Diego 9 7 0 .563 396 348 5-3 4-4 4-2 6-6
Oakland 4 12 0 .250 322 453 3-5 1-7 1-5 4-8
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
 2013 National Football Conference Standings 
East Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Philadelphia 10 6 0 .625 442 382 4-4 6-2 4-2 9-3
Dallas 8 8 0 .500 439 432 5-3 3-5 5-1 7-5
NY Giants 7 9 0 .438 294 383 4-4 3-5 3-3 6-6
Washington 3 13 0 .188 334 478 2-6 1-7 0-6 1-11
 
North Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Green Bay 8 7 1 .531 417 428 4-3-1 4-4 3-2-1 6-5-1
Chicago 8 8 0 .500 445 478 5-3 3-5 2-4 4-8
Detroit 7 9 0 .438 395 376 4-4 3-5 4-2 6-6
Minnesota 5 10 1 .344 391 480 5-3 0-7-1 2-3-1 4-7-1
 
South Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Carolina 12 4 0 .750 366 241 7-1 5-3 5-1 9-3
x-New Orleans 11 5 0 .688 414 304 8-0 3-5 5-1 9-3
Atlanta 4 12 0 .250 353 443 3-5 1-7 1-5 3-9
Tampa Bay 4 12 0 .250 288 389 3-5 1-7 1-5 2-10
 
West Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Seattle 13 3 0 .813 417 231 7-1 6-2 4-2 10-2
x-San Francisco 12 4 0 .750 406 272 6-2 6-2 5-1 9-3
Arizona 10 6 0 .625 379 324 6-2 4-4 2-4 6-6
St. Louis 7 9 0 .438 348 364 5-3 2-6 1-5 4-8
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
  • NASL: RailHawks vs. Ft. Lauderdale

    Saturday at 7:30 am on WRAL-2

  • PGA: RBC Heritage

    Saturday at 3:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • PGA: RBC Heritage

    Sunday at 3:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • Canes head coach Kirk Muller presser

    Today at 11:00 am on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
Final
CHR 2
DUR 9
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
CHI
 
7:05pm Tonight
DUR
NOR
 
7:05pm Tuesday
PHI 0
ATL 0
7:05pm Tuesday
NYY 0
CHC 0
7:05pm Tuesday
BAL 0
TAM 0
7:08pm Tuesday
DET 0
CLE 0
Final
CIN 7
PIT 5
Final
MIA 11
WAS 2
Final
TEX 5
SEA 0
Final
CWS 2
BOS 1
Final
HOU 2
KAN 4
Final
MIL 1
STL 6
Final
MIN 3
TOR 9
Final
ARI 0
NYM 9
8th
ANA 6
OAK 9
 
8th
SDP 2
COL 3
 
7th
SFG 1
LOS 2
 
12:35pm Today
CIN
PIT
12:35pm Today
BAL
TAM
 
1:05pm Today
NYY
CHC
 
1:10pm Today
MIL
STL
 
3:40pm Today
ARI
NYM
 
7:05pm Tonight
PHI
ATL
 
7:05pm Tonight
NYY
CHC
 
7:08pm Tonight
DET
CLE
 
7:10pm Tonight
MIA
WAS
 
8:05pm Tonight
TEX
SEA
 
8:10pm Tonight
CWS
BOS
 
8:10pm Tonight
HOU
KAN
 
8:10pm Tonight
MIN
TOR
 
10:05pm Tonight
ANA
OAK
 
10:10pm Tonight
SDP
COL
 
10:15pm Tonight
SFG
LOS
 
Final
BRK 98
NYK 109
4th
LAC 101
DEN 88
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
CHI
 
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
IND
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIL
ATL
 
8:00pm Tonight
CLE
BRK
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
DAL
 
8:00pm Tonight
OKC
DET
 
8:00pm Tonight
NOP
HOU
 
8:00pm Tonight
SAN
LAL
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIA
PHI
 
8:00pm Tonight
NYK
TOR
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
UTA
 
8:00pm Tonight
BOS
WAS
 
10:30pm Tonight
DEN
GSW
 
10:30pm Tonight
POR
LAC
 
10:30pm Tonight
SAC
PHO
 
7:00pm Tonight
TAM
MON
7:30pm Tonight
PIT
CLB
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
DAL
Final
CHR 2
DUR 9
 
7:05pm Tonight
DUR
NOR