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First Openly Gay NFL Player Sam Joins Cowboys Practice Squad

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Sept. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Michael Sam, the National Football League’s first openly gay player, signed with the Dallas Cowboys’ 10-man practice squad, coach Jason Garrett said in a news conference today.

The rookie defensive end went unclaimed on waivers this week after he was cut by the St. Louis Rams when the team trimmed its roster to 53 players.

Sam, 24, said last week that he’d done all he could to make the team in St. Louis and that he was “very confident” he would be on an NFL roster this season. He had three of the Rams’ eight sacks during the preseason and was tied for fourth on the team in tackles with 11.

“We feel like he has a chance to come in at a position that we’ve tried to address really throughout the offseason, throughout training camp and compete for a spot,” Garrett said. “We’ve got nothing but good reports about him from our people and from people in St. Louis, so we just want to give him a chance to come in and see if he can help our football team.”

Sam publicly revealed his sexuality three months before he was picked by the Rams in the seventh round of the NFL draft. He received a positive evaluation from Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who cited the depth of experience on the St. Louis defensive line as a reason Sam didn’t make the roster.

“They’ve allocated a lot of resources to that in recent years, so our reports were that he played fairly well, it was going to be hard for him to make that team, that he handled himself well on the practice field, worked hard and all of that,” Garrett said. “So we put all that stuff together and we felt like it was a good move for our football team.”

Minimum Pay

Sam’s contract terms weren’t disclosed. The minimum salary for practice squad players this season is $6,300 per week, according to the collective bargaining agreement.

Sam joined the Cowboys a day after former defensive tackle Josh Brent was told he’ll have to serve a 10-game suspension before he can return to the league.

Brent, 26, spent six months in jail for a drunken car crash that killed his friend and former Dallas teammate Jerry Brown. Brent faced as long as 20 years in prison after jurors convicted him in January on a single count of intoxication manslaughter. The jury determined he was driving drunk on a December night in 2012 when his Mercedes struck a curb and flipped, killing Brown.

‘Tragic Situation’

“That was a tragic situation that we all had to work our way through,” Garrett said. “Our approach has simply been to support him and help him get his life back in order.”

The 6-foot-2, 321-pound Brent, who has been out of the NFL for 21 months, has been suspended him without pay by the league until Week 11 of the regular season. The Cowboys have a Week 11 bye, so Brent’s first game back could be Nov. 23 against the New York Giants.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said during training camp that Brent would have a roster spot waiting for him if he was cleared to play.

“I know how important it is for Josh to get back playing football and by all accounts he’s working very hard to do that,” Garrett said.

Brent is banned from the team facility and all activities for the first six weeks of the regular season, which begins for the Cowboys on Sept. 7 against the San Francisco 49ers. He’s permitted to rejoin the team in Week 7 for meetings, conditioning and individual workouts, then could return to practices in Week 9 if he complies with the other terms of his conditional reinstatement, the NFL said.

Probation Terms

Brent must fully comply with his court-ordered probation, testing and monitoring, as well as any required evaluation, treatment or counseling, the league said in a statement last night.

Brent failed a sobriety test with twice the legal amount of alcohol in his bloodstream the night of the crash, indicating he had the equivalent of at least 17 drinks. Brown’s mother testified on Brent’s behalf, telling the jury the defendant and her son were like brothers and that, while Brent is responsible, he deserves to be forgiven.

The NFL said any prohibited alcohol-related conduct for Brent would probably result in an immediate suspension and potential banishment from the league.

Brent was in his third NFL season, all with the Cowboys, when the crash occurred. He totaled 31 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and one forced fumble in 39 games.

To contact the reporters on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net; Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net Jay Beberman

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