Gauging The NFL’s Readiness For Michael Sam

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Houston (CBS Houston) - Missouri Defensive end and current NFL draft prospect Michael Sam made headlines Sunday night by announcing that he’s gay. The SEC defensive player of the year is expected to be a mid round draft pick and will become the first active openly gay player in NFL history.

Since his announcement, there has been no shortage of debate.

Is the NFL ready for an openly gay player?

Will it affect his draft status?

“He’s the first now and I think there will be many more to follow.” Vinny Cerrato, former Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Washington Redskins told Sean and Rich.

Cerrato thinks Sam’s ability to perform on the field will determine his NFL fate, not his sexuality.

“When I was with the 49ers, our trainer was gay,” Cerrato said. “It was well known by the players and it was not an issue. You want to know why? It’s because he was a great trainer.”

Former Texans lineman and current MaD radio host, Seth Payne thinks the NFL is ready for an openly gay player.

“I don’t want to be naive and paint an overly rosy picture, but the environment now versus ten years ago is much more tolerant and much more understanding.” Payne said.

During his ten year NFL career, Payne had a teammate who came out after their playing days were over.

“There were rumors and it didn’t really affect the team,” Payne said. “It’s nothing that is going to prevent a team from functioning as a team.”

Despite a more tolerant climate than in previous years, Vinny Cerrato thinks the added publicity of the NFL’s first openly gay player could hurt Sam. He thinks teams could use his recent announcement as a tiebreaker between Sam and players with a similar grade.

“Do we want the headache? Do we want the distraction when he comes in or do we just want to take this other guy, who we have a similar grade on. That will be the discussion in those war rooms.” Cerrato said.

NFL front offices have started to react. The owners of both the Giants and Patriots  have said Sam’s sexualtiy wouldn’t affect his position on their draft boards. Texans general manager Rick Smith had a few thoughts on Sam as well.

“As you know, my practice leading up to the draft is to keep my thoughts and opinions of all the prospects confidential, but I do applaud the young man’s courage to live in authenticity and stand in his truth,” Smith said via the Houston Chronicle.

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