Michael Sam made his debut in a regular-season professional football game Friday night in Ottawa.
The Montreal Alouettes defensive end saw action on twelve downs. He recorded zero tackles and no sacks. His team’s hometown newspaper dubbed him a “total non-factor” and characterized the pass rusher as “badly fooled on a play-action pass in the third quarter” that resulted in a touchdown.
The Ottawa Redblacks defeated the Alouettes 26-23. The Redblacks place first in the Canadian Football League’s East at 4-2 while the Alouettes sit in last at 2-4.
“I was focusing on my assignments, actually,” Sam told the media about his thoughts before the game. “I’m not going to lie, there were some big jitters out there, and I was nervous when I first got on the field. I didn’t get any opportunities to make many plays. I had some good pass rushes, I thought, but close enough is not a sack.”
The first openly-gay professional football player’s journey to this debut has been tumultuous. After supporters imagined him picked in the second or third round of last year’s NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams selected him in the seventh. They cut him, despite Sam registering three preseason sacks, at the end of camp, and the Dallas Cowboys subsequently released him from their practice squad during the regular season. Sam ran a tortoise-like five-second forty-yard dash at the NFL’s first-ever veteran combine earlier this year, making the CFL the most attractive option if Sam wished to continue his career. Before the CFL season started in June, Sam abruptly bailed on the Alouettes without notice.
Montreal Gazette writer Herb Zurkowsky opined after the loss that “Sam has become a distraction. He doesn’t play on special teams and isn’t considered competent. Privately, more and more players are criticizing the preferential treatment he has received.”