Extra Points: A step forward for society is a step back for Sam

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Updated: 5/11 1:26 pm

(SportsNetwork.com) - In the football world, the NFL Draft is all- encompassing.

But to the more well-rounded folks who believe what's going on in the Ukraine right now is a tad more important, Michael Sam was a far bigger deal than Jadeveon Clowney.

After publicly declaring his homosexuality shortly before the scouting combine took place in February, the co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year at Missouri became the most intriguing story to the non-football media during the three- day event.

Despite his impressive production with the Tigers the 24-year-old Sam was considered a likely final-day pick or high-priority free agent due to size and athletic limitations. Sam was labeled by scouts as a classic tweener, lacking the length to be an impact player at defensive end and the lateral mobility to play in space as an outside linebacker.

To those who understand the game, the scouting reports on Sam seemed fair but to those who don't, the league was showing it's intolerance toward the gay community.

And St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher probably saved the NFL from a public relations hit on Saturday.

While Twitter was abuzz, getting ready to rip the league for failing to draft the former Mizzou star, Fisher and his general manager Les Snead changed the narrative by doing exactly that, selecting him with the first of two compensatory choices at No. 249 overall, seven spots before Mr. Irrelevant, Memphis free safety Lonnie Ballentine, was crowned.

"I don't have any concern whatsoever," Fisher said after the selection. "We drafted a good football player. In a world of diversity we live in, I am honored to be a part of this."

Sam's selection was such a big deal that even President Barack Obama chimed in on Sunday.

"The President congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward in our Nation's journey," a White House official told NBCNews.com. "From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove everyday that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are."

The NFL is no different than any other aspect of society, though, and there is certainly some intolerance from people in the game.

After Sam was selected on Saturday, ESPN cameras were there to document his reaction. There were some tears, congratulations from family and friends and perhaps most notably a kiss from Sam's boyfriend, something which evidently didn't sit well with Dolphins cornerback Don Jones, who Tweeted out "omg" after and then replied "horrible" to one of his followers asking if the original Tweet referred to the kiss.

Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey quickly reacted:

"I was made aware of it and I was disappointed in those comments," Hickey said. "That's not what we stand for as an organization. The draft weekend is a culmination for so many players, their lifetime achievement of their dream to achieve a goal for Michael Sam and all the other players."

Ironically, the Rams' decision to draft Sam makes his ultimate dream of becoming the first openly gay player to play in the NFL more difficult.

St. Louis is loaded with talent on the defensive line and particularly at end where Sam figures to make his living in the Show Me State. The Rams starters are Robert Quinn, perhaps the NFL's best pure pass rusher, and Chris Long, a former first-round pick who is still playing at a high level, with veterans William Hayes and Eugene Sims in reserve.

Agents will tell you it's far better to go undrafted than to be picked late in the final round because they can then survey the landscape and pick the best landing spot for a prospect.

In Sam's case the NFL Network reported that he would have received at least four offers had he gone undrafted with Chicago, the New York Giants and Baltimore added to the Rams.

So while an openly gay man being drafted by an NFL team might seem like a major step forward to the POTUS and the rest of the real world, it's also at least a minor step backward for Sam's hopes of hitting the ground running at the professional level.

Baltimore, which possesses the lone 3-4 defense in the quartet of teams reportedly interested in Sam, particularly seemed like the better fit because the Ravens' scheme would have given Sam opportunities at two different positions and the organization itself has been known for its flexibility over the years, often finding roles for players with unique skill sets.

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