Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted in NFL history, will join the Cowboys’ practice squad Wednesday after getting released from the Rams among their 53-man roster cuts during the weekend.
“We felt like it was a good move for our football team right now,” said head coach Jason Garrett. "We’re bringing a player in we wanted to see on the practice field, and got nothing but good reports about him from our people and the people in St. Louis. We just want to give him a chance to come in and see if he can help our football team."
St. Louis selected Sam, the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, in the seventh round of this year’s draft. But the Rams didn’t bring him back to the practice squad after a productive preseason, and he went unclaimed on waivers.
Garrett said he knew the Rams had a very good defensive line, making it difficult for Sam to make that roster. He feels that Sam has a chance to come to Dallas and compete at a position the Cowboys have tried to address this offseason.
"This is about football," Garrett said. "We evaluated him as a football player and think he can help us as a football player. We want to see what he can do, but our attention and focus is on football."
Sam wasn’t initially on the radars of some NFL teams. Many of them viewed the 6-2, 260-pound pass rusher as a “tweener” – not quite quick or athletic enough to be an outside linebacker in the 3-4 but not big enough to be a 4-3 defensive end.
But it was that latter position Sam demonstrated he could play in St. Louis, with a preseason that included three sacks, five quarterback hits and 11 combined tackles. His biggest game came in the third week of the preseason against the Browns, when he recorded two sacks against Johnny Manziel.
That was just a follow-up to an impressive college career, which included 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss in 2013, helping Missouri reach the SEC Championship Game.
Sam released a series of tweets following his release from St. Louis, thanking the Rams for giving him a chance. He also stated after a successful preseason that he knows he belongs in the league.
“I want to thank the entire Rams organization and the city of St. Louis for giving me this tremendous opportunity and allowing me to show I can play at this level,” Sam tweeted. “I look forward to continuing to build on the progress I made here toward a long and successful career.
“The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I’ve always known. The journey continues.”
For now, that journey continues in Dallas.
Sam passed his physical Wednesday and will be allowed to practice. The Cowboys dropped seventh-round pick Will Smith from the practice squad Wednesday to allow Sam to officially join. Sam is the second defensive end on the practice squad, joining Kenneth Boatright.
The Cowboys had eight of their 10 practice squad players picked by Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon, they also added tackle John Wetzel and defensive back Jemea Thomas to the practice squad.
With Sam on the practice squad, the Cowboys have another player who can help in the pass-rushing department. The Cowboys finished last in the league in sacks per pass attempt last season and already lost their two defensive end draft picks,
Lawrence, the team’s second-round pick, is expected to return before the end of the season, while Gardner, one of the Cowboys’ seventh-round picks, was placed on injured reserve.
With Lawrence out early, the Cowboys could use help at right defensive end. Most of his opportunities in St. Louis came as a left defensive end, but Sam did get some experience on both sides and any pass-rushing skills could assist the front seven.