IRVING, Texas — Rookie defensive end Michael Sam passed his physical Wednesday morning and signed with the Dallas Cowboys.
Sam is the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He was selected in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams, but was cut last week. The Cowboys signed Sam to their practice squad.
“We’ve gotten nothing but good reports about him from our folks in St. Louis. Obviously, he was a very good player in college. His track record speaks for itself,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday morning. “Our report was that he played fairly well, but it was going to be hard for him to make that team.
“It’s a good move for our football team. We’re trying to help our team get better.”
Sam, the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year at Missouri, had three sacks and 11 tackles in the preseason with the Rams.
While Sam was not a fit for the Rams’ roster or their practice squad because of their deep talent pool, he is an intriguing addition to a Cowboys team that thought he was too slow to fit their scheme in May.
That was before the situation at defensive end turned from deficient to desperate.
The Cowboys had 35 sacks last season but have been in desperate need of pass-rushers since losing defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and defensive end DeMarcus Ware in the offseason. Defensive end Anthony Spencer still is a “couple” of weeks away from a return from microfracture knee surgery. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, a second-round draft pick, suffered a fractured foot two weeks into training camp.
“This is about football. We evaluated him as a football player,” Garrett said. “That’s the culture we have around here and the culture we will continue to have.”
The Cowboys open the season Sunday against San Francisco at AT&T Stadium, but Sam was the central focus of Wednesday morning’s news conference.
“We have to be careful spending too much time on a practice squad player. We want to make sure we’re giving ourselves the best chance. We’ll do that a lot of different ways,” Garrett said. “We’re focused on football. The 49ers are going to be here. That’s where our attention is.”