Defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, announced via Twitter that he intends to step away from the game of football. It’s not clear whether this action represents an official retirement or just a reprieve for Sam, but it doesn’t sound like we’ll see him on the gridiron any time soon.
“The last 12 months have been very difficult for me, to the point where I became concerned with my mental health,” wrote Sam. “Because of this I am going to step away from the game at this time. I thank the Alouettes for this opportunity and hope to be back on the field soon. Thank you all for your understanding and support.”
As Sam referenced in his statement, he’d been playing for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League since signing a two-year contract in May. He had left the club in June, citing personal reasons, but returned later the same month. Sam didn’t play in last night’s Alouettes home opener due to a sore back, but he did play last week in the season’s first contest.
Sam’s NFL time has been brief, as he spent about a month last year on the Cowboys’ practice squad after being waived by the Rams, the club that selected him in the seventh round of the 2014 draft. The 25-year-old Sam participated in the NFL’s new veteran combine earlier this year, posting a disappointing 4.99 time in the 40-yard dash.