With the 2014 NFL regular season approaching, each team has just one preseason game left on the schedule, in which players can prove that they are worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster. Michael Sam is among the biggest names that are looking to avoid the final round of cuts, as he looks to become the first openly gay football player in league history.
All 32 teams must have their rosters finalized by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. Having already played in three preseason games, Sam will get one more chance to impress head coach Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams brass. St. Louis is scheduled to play its last preseason game of 2014 on Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins.
Sam has been impressive during his time on the field, exceeding expectations and improving with each performance. In his NFL debut, the defensive end recorded a tackle and made a hit on the quarterback. The following week, he got his first sack and made two tackles.
In his the Rams’ most recent game, Sam looked like a player that deserved to be on an NFL roster. He made the most of his 19 snaps, sacking rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel twice. No other player in the entire game recorded more than one tackle for a loss.
"With the plays you have, you’ve got to make sure you perform," Sam said after the game. "I thought I came up big in the fourth quarter."
At Missouri, Sam was one of the best pass rushers in college football, recording 11.5 sacks as a senior and being named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. His future with St. Louis, though, could largely be based on his work on special teams, considering the Rams have one of the best defensive lines in the league.
Ever since he came out, Sam has faced an uphill battle in trying to make an NFL team. There were reports that his sexual orientation could hurt his draft stock, and the 24-year old was taken with just seven picks left in the final round. Now, Sam is hoping to make a team with a defensive line that features the likes of Robert Quinn and Chris Long.
Soon after he was drafted, Sam was considered a longshot to suit up for the Rams in Week One. Bovada.lv initially set the odds of him making St. Louis’ roster at 3/1.
If Sam is cut by the Rams, he could still find a spot with another team. Only two players have more than his three preseason sacks, and being cut would give him a chance to sign elsewhere as a free agent.
"I can only control what I can control," Sam said. "I thought I got better today. I’m not only interviewing for the Rams but also interviewing for the other 31 teams. As long as I keep getting better, I have got one more week to get better and we’ll go from that.
Teams will cut their rosters down to 75 players on Tuesday. While Sam is no guarantee to remain with the Rams over the next few days, he’s proven to be one of the most popular players in all of football, nearing the top of the NFL in jersey sales.