Michael Sam

Extra Points: Megatron, Young, Sam, Jets

Former Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson has been observing Raiders practices this week as a guest of offensive coordinator Todd Downing, per Eddie Paskal of Raiders.com. Downing was on Detroit’s staff from 2009-13 – a large portion of Johnson’s career – and while it’s fun to imagine Megatron coming out of retirement to join the Raiders’ high-octane attack, there’s no indication he has any interest in doing so.

More from around the game:

  • Johnson may not be coming out of retirement, but former NFL quarterback Vince Young is returning to the gridiron. Young, who retired in 2014, signed Thursday with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League, agent Leigh Steinberg announced (Twitter link). The 34-year-old Young, a former superstar at the University of Texas and the 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Titans, hasn’t attempted a regular-season pass in the professional ranks since he was a member of the Eagles in 2011.
  • An openly gay player has never played a regular-season NFL game, and it’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future, former Eagles/Browns executive and current ESPN analyst Joe Banner told SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this week (via Sporting News’ Alex Marvez). Former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam is the only openly gay player ever drafted, having gone in the seventh round in 2014, but he encountered a media firestorm during his stints with the Rams and the Cowboys during the preseason that year. The media attention that accompanied his short time in the league has likely made teams “a little more hesitant” to welcome an openly gay player, says Banner. For their part, the Browns didn’t regard Sam’s sexuality as an issue, according to Banner.
  • Collette Smith will become the first woman to ever join the Jets’ coaching staff, reports Leonard Greene of the New York Daily News. Smith, who’s a coach and marketing executive with the New York Sharks of the Independent Women’s Football League, will work as a preseason intern with the Jets’ defensive backs during training camp. “I’m over the top. I’m humbled and I’m proud,” said Smith. “This could have happened with any NFL team. But it just so happened that it was with my beloved New York Jets. This is bigger because of that. God forbid it would have been with the Patriots. But I still would have done it.”
  • Vice president of player personnel Adam Peters was one of the driving forces behind the 49ers’ drafting of former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, writes Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. Before Peters’ hiring in January, general manager John Lynch asked the former Broncos executive whom he’d select with the 49ers’ first-round pick (No. 2 overall). “Without hesitation, he said ‘Reuben Foster,'” stated Lynch. The draft didn’t quite work out the way Peters imagined it then, as the Niners ultimately traded down to third overall and selected ex-Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas with that choice. But San Francisco ended up getting Foster at the end of Round 1, after it moved up to No. 31 overall. “A lot has transpired then and (Peters) loved Solomon Thomas, too, I don’t want to get that mistaken,” said Lynch. “But he was a huge champion of Reuben Foster. Like I said, so much transpired from there to there. But (Peters) was big on that one. I know that.”

NFC West Notes: Rams, Boldin, Cardinals

Before he threw a single regular-season pass for the Rams, Nick Foles signed a two-year extension that ensured he wouldn’t be eligible for free agency this winter. Although Foles is sticking around, he won’t be handed the starting quarterback job in 2016, according to Rams general manager Les Snead.

Appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio from the Senior Bowl, Snead told Mark Dominik and Alex Marvez that he expects Foles, Case Keenum, Sean Mannion, and any other offseason QB additions to battle for the No. 1 job this summer (link via Marvez at FOX Sports). “If I learned one thing last year, we should have let the quarterbacks have a competition from the start and the best man win instead of just passing the torch to Nick,” Snead said.

The Rams are paying Foles like the starter, as the former Eagles will count for $8.75MM against the cap in ’16. By comparison, Mannion will have a cap hit under $1MM, while Keenum – a restricted free agent – likely won’t make more than $2-3MM. Still, it sounds like Foles’ higher price tag won’t guarantee him anything.

Let’s round up a few more items from around the NFC West…

  • 49ers wideout Anquan Boldin, who is eligible for free agency this winter, spoke briefly to Chip Kelly after the new head coach joined the team, but said today that he has yet to engage in negotiations with anyone from the Niners’ front office about a new contract. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle has the details, along with Boldin’s quotes.
  • Former Missouri edge defender Michael Sam plans to take “one more shot” at making an NFL roster this year, he tweeted on Tuesday. Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted when he was selected by the Rams in 2014.
  • After bringing him in for a workout last month, the Cardinals have tried out defensive back Joel Wilkinson again, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
  • Earlier today, veteran Cardinals long snapper Mike Leach announced his retirement. Our full story can be found right here.

Michael Sam Planning On NFL Return

In a recent interview with ABC 17, linebacker Michael Sam said that he is planning on pursuing his NFL dream once again. As a part of that effort, Sam explained that he has fired his publicist and agent, ostensibly to show that his primary focus is on football rather than other career opportunities.

Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, hooked on with the Montreal Alouettes after stints with the Rams and Cowboys. Sam signed with the CFL squad in May, left the team in June citing personal reasons, quickly returned, then in August announced that he would “step away from the game.” Sam’s NFL time was brief and his showing in the NFL’s new veteran combine was not very impressive as he ran, 4.99 second 40-yard dash.

The 25-year-old (26 in January) is currently working for the Mizzou Network and going through “media training” but his ultimate goal will be to make an NFL roster in 2016. When he’s not working in broadcasting or studying for his masters degree, Sam says he’ll be training hard to make his NFL dream come true.

Michael Sam To Step Away From Football

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.

Extra Points: Sam, CJ2K, D-Jax, Ravens

The Montreal Alouettes are feeling very good about Michael Sam‘s progress and Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link) would be very surprised if he doesn’t make his CFL debut Friday night. Sam left the CFL team for personal reasons over the summer but recently returned to practice. Here’s more from around the NFL..

  • Despite talk and speculation to the contrary, there’s nothing going on between the Texans and running back Chris Johnson, Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com (on Twitter) hears from a source. Johnson, who survived a drive-by shooting earlier this year, has gone unsigned so far this offseason.
  • Following a collision with a blocking sled, DeSean Jackson has been diagnosed with a separated shoulder, and the Washington wideout is expected to miss “a few weeks,” per Dianna Marie Russini of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Jackson should be ready to go for the regular season, so he figures to remain on the active roster.
  • The Ravens didn’t immediately sign ex-Niner Chris Cook following his workout with the team today, but it’s clear Baltimore is still considering adding a veteran cornerback, tweets Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun.
  • Bears rookie wide receiver Kevin White could start the year on the PUP list, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). White, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2015 draft, reportedly expects to begin running on his injured shin early next week.
  • Joel Corry of CBSSports.com passes along a couple more details on DeAndre Levy‘s extension with the Lions, tweeting that the deal drops the linebacker’s base salary to $3.5MM in 2015, but he’ll receive a $12MM signing bonus.

Extra Points: Tunsil, L.A., Jags, Sam

Here are some items from across the NFL lexicon on Saturday afternoon.

  • Oxford, Miss., police arrested potential top-5 2016 draftee Laremy Tunsil after the star Ole Miss offensive tackle punched his stepfather, reports ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy. The tackle, who as of now is projected by ESPN’s Todd McShay to go fourth next year, turned himself in. “We can confirm that Laremy Tunsil turned himself in and was arrested for a misdemeanor, domestic violence-simple assault,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said in a statement. “The incident occurred Thursday night and involves Laremy defending his mother against his stepfather.” A source close to the situation told McMurphy that Tunsil’s stepfather punched his mother and the Rebels junior retaliated.
  • After reports surfaced Friday that the now-well-traveled Michael Sam resurfaced with the Montreal Alouettes, the former Rams draft choice confirmed this today on his Twitter account. The defensive end missed two weeks of time with the CFL club that’s now 0-1.
  • In light of the scathing indictment of the Oakland stadium proposal our own Ben Levine relayed earlier today, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suspects this could further complicate matters in the Los Angeles-in-2016 derby.
  • Even after No. 3 overall selection Dante Fowler Jr.‘s ACL tear, four Jaguars rookies will see major time this season, writes Steven Ruiz of USA Today. T.J. Yeldon, A.J. Cann, James Sample and Michael Bennett, taken in the second, third, fourth and sixth rounds, respectively, are set for “significant” playing time this season. Bennett would look to compete for depth behind starters Sen’Derrick Marks and Jared Odrick, while Sample will tussle with Sergio Brown at free safety.
  • The Packers will begin ex-Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan on the inside in their 3-4 scheme, reports Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A fourth-round pick, Ryan played on the strong side for three seasons with the Wolverines, before moving to the middle as a senior.
  • Veteran Andre Fluellen has around a 30% chance of making the Bills‘ 53-man roster, opines ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak. Although the Bills used a four-man line during minicamp, they are expected to use plenty of 3-4 concepts, where Fluellen would slot at end instead of the inside spot he played with the Lions.

Extra Points: Bennett, Sam, Manning, HGH

Making an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Cliff Avril said this week that he supports fellow Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett in his quest for a new contract, writes Kirk Larrabee of 247Sports.com.

“I’ve been through the whole contract situation, so I don’t fault him from wanting a new deal from a standpoint of they cut you after a year if they feel you don’t play as well as that contract,” Avril said. “If you feel like you outplayed the contract after a year, go for it. What’s the worst they can tell you? I don’t blame him for that … Hopefully they figure something out, if not this year, hopefully he outplays it again next year and they make sure something happens next year.”

Here are a few more Friday odds and ends from around the NFL (and the CFL):

  • Former Mizzou pass rusher Michael Sam returned to Montreal and is expected to be at the Alouettes’ team meetings this Sunday and at practice the following day, reports Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette. Sam left the team about two weeks ago for personal reasons, but GM Jim Popp indicated earlier this week that he thought the former Rams seventh-rounder draftee would be back.
  • Using this week’s Peyton Manning trade rumor as a point of reference, Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report explains that NFL teams and executives often engage in “hypothetical” trade discussions, which gives them plausible deniability if word of those talks leak. As for Manning, one general manager tells Freeman that the Broncos “would be stupid not to talk to teams” about trading him, even if a deal was never likely.
  • Since the NFL’s instituted human-growth hormone testing last October, no player has tested positive. However, it’s possible that those glowing results can be attributed to the limitations of the test. Dr. John Lombardo tells Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt on SiriusXM NFL Radio that the current test has a “very short window,” meaning a player who used HGH a few days before being tested may not test positive. A new test in development would have a much longer window – about five to eight days – according to Lombardo.
  • In case it needed to be clarified, Falcons PR man Jay Adams (Twitter link) and head coach Dan Quinn (link via ESPN.com) both confirmed this week that Quinn’s comments about bringing 53-year-old Herschel Walker to the team’s training camp were made in jest.

Extra Points: Battle, Sam, Bills, Browns

A pair of NFL sources tell Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link) that Clemson offensive tackle Isaiah Battle could be a third-round value in this year’s supplemental draft. We learned earlier today that Battle would be eligible for the supplemental draft, and Robinson suggests that a strong 2015 season at Clemson might have pushed Battle into the top five prospects at his position for the 2016 draft. The young lineman is still raw, so it will be interesting to see which teams, if any, are willing to part with one of their 2016 picks to land him.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the NFL:

  • The NFL’s rookie salary structure needs to be overhauled again, in the view of Jason Reid of ESPN.com, who makes the case that young players – especially non-first-rounders – who play well during their first three or four seasons are undercompensated.
  • Jim Popp, the general manager of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, tells Les Carpenter of The Guardian that he thinks Michael Sam will eventually return to the team, and that the Missouri alum “needed a break.” Popp also revealed that the Alouettes were close to adding both Sam and Tim Tebow last fall, and added that a few NFL teams have called him since Sam left Montreal, asking if he knows why the edge defender departed and whether or not he’ll be back.
  • After spending the majority of the 2014 season on injured reserve, Bills safety Jonathan Meeks finds himself on the team’s roster bubble, with Mike Rodak of ESPN.com giving him a 55% chance of earning a spot on the 53-man squad.
  • The Browns may not have had pre-draft contact with Marcus Mariota, but that doesn’t mean the team didn’t have any interest in the Oregon quarterback, writes Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, pointing out that new Cleveland quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell worked extensively with Mariota before joining the Browns.
  • ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters have assigned offseason grades to each of the league’s 32 teams, with links to all 32 stories and videos right here.

Extra Points: Sam, Foles, Thompson, FXFL

Conspiracy theories have emerged about Michael Sam and why he requested permission last Friday to leave the his CFL team’s training camp for personal reasons. There are still no concrete answers as to why the NFL’s first openly gay drafted player made that call, Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette writes.

In a separate piece, Zurkowsky notes that the latest theory is that Sam sensed that he wouldn’t make the Montreal Alouettes’ roster and – seeing the writing on the wall – left to save face for himself and the club. While GM Jim Popp says the door remains open for Sam’s return, another source within the organization said that’s unlikely to happen. The Alouettes officially moved the former Rams draftee to the suspended list, according to the CFL (on Twitter).

Let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the football world:

  • Following up on yesterday’s report about extension talks between Nick Foles and the Rams, Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com tweets that the quarterback loves being in St. Louis, but will let agent David Dunn handle negotiations. As Wagoner adds in a second tweet, the Rams are talking to a few potential 2016 free agents about new contracts, so it doesn’t sound like they’re focused exclusively on Foles.
  • Taylor Thompson‘s 2015 season is off to an ominous start. According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, the Titans tight end is facing a fine for arriving late to the team’s mandatory minicamp, and is still having issues with the knee he injured last season, raising concerns about his NFL future.
  • Former Wake Forest wideout Matt James was trying out for the Saints today at the club’s minicamp, a source tells Evan Woodbery of the New Orleans Times-Picayune (Twitter link).
  • The FXFL is getting ready to get its 2015 season underway, but Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports (on Twitter) hears from a source that multiple players are still owed money from last season. The FXFL had its first season in 2014, beginning in October. Since then, several players from the upstart league have found their way to the NFL.
  • Bill Williamson of ESPN.com wonders if the Raiders could be in the mix for two players released by their respective teams today, running back Shonn Greene and safety Taylor Mays.
  • Former Cowboys running back Tashard Choice is at the team’s minicamp today, but it’s in a coaching capacity, not as a player, as Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com explains (via Twitter).

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Michael Sam Leaves Montreal Alouettes

Former seventh-round draft pick Michael Sam has decided to leave his CFL team, the Montreal Alouettes.

The team released a statement earlier today, on the team’s official website. Part of the statement has been reproduced below.

“The Montreal Alouettes organization would like to clarify the situation surrounding international defensive end Michael Sam. Friday morning, Michael asked the team for special permission to leave training camp and return home for personal reasons.”

The team went on to write that Sam’s reasons will remain confidential, and that the defensive end is welcome to return to the team whenever he is ready.

Sam joined the Alouettes on May 22nd, and leaves the team after only three weeks, according to John Breech of CBS Sports. He has missed practices earlier this week, and will miss at least the first preseason game for the team.