The moment when Michael Sam is expected to become the first openly gay player in the NFL is drawing closer, but which NFL team is likely to draft him next month?
Among the teams that have shown the most interest in the Missouri defensive end are the Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets, according to the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson.
“Any player that has the qualities to be a great player and a good teammate is a guy that fits us,” Coach John Harbaugh told reporters during the NFL scouting combine just weeks after Sam’s announcement. “We’re really good at helping players, any player, become a part of our team. That goes to all the things that I think are happening in the NFL the last couple of months.
“Any player that has a good heart and wants to be a good teammate, who loves football, we’re good at helping them become part of a team. And anything that deters from that or detracts from that is not what we’re going to be about.”
Which may make the Ravens the best spot for him, culturally if not defensively. There’s strong locker-room leadership in place and a legacy of support from former linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo for Jason Collins, the Brooklyn Nets’ player who came out a year ago, and for same-sex marriage.
Although wide receiver Torrey Smith used a gay slur in a tweet in January, he blogged about his support for Sam, when he came out right after the Super Bowl.
“A group of athletes 18-22 years old can handle having an openly gay teammate,” Smith wrote of Missouri players who knew Sam’s story all season, “why can’t a group of professional athletes? … As long as there is a reciprocation of respect, the locker room environment shouldn’t be an issue.”