Michael Sam went to the first NFL veterans combine to resurrect his never quite alive NFL career. He left Tempe certain never to play a down in an official NFL game.
Sam, who ran a slow-footed 4.9 forty at the rookie combine last year, never broke five seconds at the made-for-television event over the weekend. He ran unofficial times of 5.1 and 5.07. The high school defensive end I followed during the 2012 season in writing The War on Football ran a 4.9 forty. Sam’s speed at the rookie combine, let alone his time in Tempe, make him lead-legged for a college club.
To put Sam’s slowness in perspective, Jadeveon Clowney, who plays the same position as Sam, ran a 4.53 at least year’s combine. How can Sam compete coming off the edge against guys a half-a-second faster in the forty?
To get this far—competing for a roster spot in St. Louis and playing on the taxi squad in Dallas—on low-performance wheels says something about the seventh-round pick’s abilities as a football player. To compile 10.5 sacks in his senior season at Missouri, and drop quarterbacks for a loss three times in the NFL preaseason, means Sam likely possesses outstanding football instincts. What he lacks in athleticism he makes up in football IQ. But no one’s sense of the game plays as such an advantage that it offsets a 5.1 forty in a position that relies on explosiveness and speed.
Michael Sam is a good football player. He’s just not an athletically-gifted football player.
To be fair, Tempe’s clock ran extraordinarily slow across the board this weekend. Felix Jones, who ran a 4.47 at the rookie event in 2008, clocked in at 4.79 and 4.85 over the weekend. “You gotta be f—ing me. 4.91? There you go, there goes my career,” running back Michael Bush said in reaction to his time. The day’s best forty? A 4.55.
One would imagine that after charging the wannabes $400 to showcase their abilities the NFL would at least provide a correctly calibrated stopwatch. Still, even if the lasers gauging the times malfunctioned by a tenth of a second or two, Sam’s times remain slow by the standards of NFL rushers. Given that at six-foot-two, 260 pounds, he is also small relative to NFL defensive ends, Michael Sam may want to look north to Canada or indoors to arena ball if he wants to continue his gridiron career.