Two of the NFL’s biggest offseason stories collided Saturday night, when Michael Sam took Johnny Manziel down. The St. Louis Rams defensive end, who’s also the first openly gay player to play in the NFL, sacked the mercurial Cleveland Browns back-up quarterback twice in the fourth quarter of a 33-14 preseason victory for the Rams.
After bringing the typically elusive Manziel down, Sam popped up and flashed Manziel’s money sign to the roaring crowd. Still overall Manziel looked sharper in his third preseason game, going 10-for-15 for 85 yards, and rushing for a seven-yard touchdown. However it was Cleveland's third loss of the preseason.
Sam is trying to make the Rams roster after falling to the seventh round of the draft, while Manziel was designated the Browns back-up behind Brian Hoyer despite coming out of Texas A&M as a widely heralded prospect.
After Cleveland selected him with the 22nd overall pick in the first round, Manziel spent much of the summer party hopping across the country. He was spotted in Las Vegas, Houston, Los Angeles and many other places, but such a fast lifestyle was panned by Manziel’s critics who felt he wasn’t taking preparation for his rookie season seriously.
St. Louis and head coach Jeff Fisher was praised for selecting Sam, even when many teams felt his barrier-breaking feat would have caused a disruption both in the locker room and the media’s coverage.
The SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year at Missouri last season, Sam has recorded 3.0 sacks during the preseason but he does face an uphill battle with St. Louis d-end and last season’s sack-leader Robert Quinn, along with Chris Long, William Hayes and Eugene Sims ahead of him on the depth chart.