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Remember When Michael Sam Was Supposed To Be A Distraction For The Dallas Cowboys?

The great distraction that was supposed to come to Dallas with Michael Sam has all but vanished as the NFL is swamped with bad news.

Oh, that guy.
Oh, that guy.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

As any long time reader here at BTB knows, I am loathe to point out when the esteemed members of the media who cover and comment on the Dallas Cowboys are totally, completely, ridiculously wrong. But it is hard to not notice that they were a teensy bit off on the dire predictions they made about a certain player signed to the Cowboys' practice squad.

Remember Michael Sam? He was briefly the hottest story in the NFL as the first openly gay player to be drafted. After he failed to make the roster or be signed to the practice squad with the St. Louis Rams, the Cowboys' next opponent, there was some hand wringing about him being out of the league before Jerry Jones and his staff decided to bring him to join the Dallas practice squad. The team downplayed it, but the move made sense for a franchise looking for talent at rushing from the edge.

Maybe the Sam story would continue to attract attention in a normal year, but this is not a normal season for the NFL. Shortly after Sam arrived in Dallas, the sky fell in on the league. The full video of the Ray Rice assault on his then-fiance broke. Combined with the Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald situations, the NFL found itself engulfed in a firestorm of criticism following the incoherent and inconsistent way things were handled by the teams and the league. Then the Adrian Peterson child abuse indictment crashed in on top of that. With the foolish attempts by teams to find ways to get these players back on the field despite the tidal wave of negative coverage and growing public opinion that they should not be seen playing on national TV, at least until these issues are resolved legally, almost no one seems to be paying attention to the Sam story.

All the predictions about the huge distraction Sam would be in the harsh media glare seem quaint now. (Think for a moment: Were you even sure he was still with the team?) The Sam story seems totally insignificant when compared with professional athletes that brutally render the woman they supposedly love unconscious with a blow to the head, or a grown man whipping a child with a piece of a tree and leaving open wounds. The decision to bring Sam to Dallas has turned out be a very smart one, with a lot of benefits for all parties.

  • The publicity for the Cowboys has been almost all positive, especially in the media.
  • According to the limited reports, Sam has been doing well. Said reports consist mostly of a daily question answered by Bryan Broaddus on Twitter, who repeats time after time that the team thinks Sam is doing a good job.
  • Sam, who was praised by Jeff Fisher, head coach of the Rams, as having NFL caliber talent (just not enough to get onto the admittedly deep D line in St. Louis) gets to work out and train with an NFL staff rather that sit and wait for a call while trying to stay in shape on his own. This greatly increases his chances of being signed by a team in need of a DE or 3-4 OLB.
  • He gives Dallas a low-cost fallback plan should injury strike, or the team just wants to go with a different option if some of the current defensive ends on the 53 don't pan out. I think a late season call up with the Cowboys is his most likely (although far from certain) path to playing on Sundays. But keep in mind that Kenneth Boatright is also on the practice squad, and may be ahead of Sam in the eyes of the coaches.

Even if Sam does not break through this season, he has the opportunity to convince the coaches to bring him back next season to try again with the Cowboys. Meanwhile, even though it is just with the practice squad, he is getting to make his living as a professional football player. His dream remains very much alive while the Cowboys get what appears to be good value for giving him a shot.

Without all the distractions.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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