UPDATE: According to reports from ESPN and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Michael Sam and the other players released from the Rams were not picked up by any other NFL team Sunday. They are eligible for practice teams.
EARTH CITY — St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher said he pulled for Michael Sam to make the team’s 53-man roster.
But about an hour before Fisher’s 3:30 p.m. press conference Saturday, he made a phone call to Sam. Fisher told the former Missouri All-American defensive lineman he was being waived.
Fisher said Sam thanked him, and the two planned to meet in person Sunday when Sam — who was at Missouri's season-opening football game Saturday — returned to St. Louis.
“It was not a difficult decision,” Fisher said of waiving Sam. “Let me point out, our sixth-round pick and we had four seventh-round picks; and none of them are on the active roster. We made football decisions with respect to our draft choices, with respect to our undrafted free agents.”
St. Louis selected Sam in the seventh round of May’s NFL Draft with the 249th pick. Sam is the first openly gay athlete to be drafted and play in an NFL preseason game.
He recorded three sacks in the four-game preseason, including two against Cleveland Browns rookie Johnny Manziel. But it wasn't enough.
The Rams announced at 3:05 p.m. via Twitter that Sam was one of 21 players the team waived to reach the 53-player threshold.
Fisher said Sam was the only player whom he did not get to tell in person.
Sam declined comment when reached by phone by the Missourian: "I'm sorry but I'm indisposed today."
He did, however, voice his appreciation for the Rams on Twitter.
"I want to thank the entire Rams organization and the city of St. Louis for giving me this tremendous opportunity and allowing me to show I can play at this level," Sam posted. "I look forward to continuing to build on the progress I made here toward a long and successful career."
Fisher declined to talk about the possibility of Sam making the team’s 10-man practice squad because too many variables exist. The other 31 NFL teams have until noon Sunday to claim Sam off waivers. If he goes unclaimed, the Rams can bring him back to their practice squad.
Fisher expects Sam to be part of an NFL team in some capacity. In addition to his three sacks, Sam recorded 10 solo tackles during the preseason.
“Mike’s got the ability,” Fisher said. “Mike played well. He has the ability to play someplace. It’s got to be the right place. It’s got to be a fit.”
Defensive end Michael Sam looks up at the scoreboard from the sidelines Thursday during the first half of an NFL preseason football game between the St. Louis Rams and the Miami Dolphins in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Rams announced Saturday afternoon that Sam did not make the 53-man roster. (PHOTO: Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press)
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, fresh off a 38-18 win over South Dakota State in the Tigers' season-opener, also spoke about Sam's prospects moving forward.
"There are a lot of teams with different needs out there," Pinkel said. "Hopefully he'll have another opportunity to do well."
The NFL regular season starts Thursday with Green Bay playing at Seattle.
The Rams kept nine defensive linemen on their 53-man roster. Fisher said that adding a 10th in Sam would have required the team to be “short somewhere else.”
Fisher emphasized that he enjoyed having Sam on his team.
“There was no distraction,” Fisher said. “Mike fit in very, very well. He was fun to be around. He was a good teammate. There was no issue there. As I said earlier, I was pulling for him, and it didn’t work out. It just didn’t work out.”
Wade Livingston contributed to this report.
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.