No one truly knows if Michael Sam, who recently came out as being gay, will be a distraction for an NFL team should he be drafted by one.
The Missouri linebacker would be the first openly gay player to be in the league — and while there is little doubt there have been others like him throughout the course of the league’s history — he would be the first not to keep it a secret during his playing days.
And according to Arizona Cardinals free agent Karlos Dansby, Sam’s presence — and everything that comes with it — will pose a problem for whatever team he’s on.
“It will definitely be a distraction, without a doubt,” he told Sirius XM’s NFL Radio. “That’s something that you really don’t even really want to talk about. You want to talk about football and making plays, and doing stuff like that. And the team you’re about to play against. You don’t want to answer questions about one’s sexual preference.”
A prevailing thought seems to be if Sam can help a team win football games, his teammates will accept him. Of course, that would not prevent others from continually pressing the issue of his off-the-field lifestyle, which could be the distraction Dansby is referring to. Even if his teammates do not care, the questions from media, friends, fans and family could persist to the point where they — not Sam — become the distraction.
But the only thing people know is whoever selects Sam in May’s draft will do so with the idea that they know how to prevent their rookie from being an issue.
“You’ll try to mask the situation, but it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be hard, man,” Dansby said. “Because it’s such a big topic. Him being the first guy to really come out and say those things, there’s going to be a lot of questions being asked day in and day out.”
But those questions come from people who are not part of the team, not in the locker room. It is in there that Sam will need to be most accepted, though Dansby thinks it will be a bit of a challenge.
“I think it will be difficult, just from the nature of the game,” he said. “And the history of the game and the things that go on in a locker room; I think it will be tough, I think it will be tough on him.
“I think it will be real hard on him.”
Sam seems ready to embrace the challenge, though. He came out to his Missouri teammates prior to the 2013 season, then helped lead the Tigers to a 12-win season and becoming a unanimous first-team All-American in the process.
He tallied 48 tackles — 19 for loss — along with 11.5 sacks.
If he can play like that in the NFL, it’s possible the conversation will go from him being a gay football player to him being a good football player.
And then, the distraction Dansby is referring to would likely go away.