If Michael Sam doesn’t make the St. Louis Rams’ 53-man roster, blame the Dallas Cowboys and Toys “R” Us.
It was always going to be an uphill battle for Sam — the NFL’s first openly-gay player — to win a spot with the Rams. The team is loaded on the defensive line, and to make things more difficult for Sam, undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks from West Texas A&M is playing so well that he will probably claim the final opening there.
It’s due in part to the Cowboys, who could have had Westbrooks for a song — but lowballed him with a small signing bonus offer. The Rams offered $50,000, and Westbrooks went with them. As for Toys “R” Us, that’s the job Westbrooks had in his native Sacramento, that he hated, and which pushed him to be a better football player.
Michael Sam outplayed by his competition for roster spot http://t.co/v7ICAsdBuH
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) August 17, 2014
If the Rams decide to keep 10 defensive linemen on their final roster, Sam would likely make it. But that’s a stretch — they’ll probably go with nine — which means Sam could be a candidate for the practice squad. From Pro Football Focus, which rates NFL players at every position each week:
Ethan Westbrooks, DE, +4.0
Breakdown: Westbrooks’ roster spot is a formality at this point. Now he’s just competing for snaps in the regular defensive rotation. The undrafted defensive end put forth a monster game for the third straight week with four pressures and a stop. His real value during the regular season could be as an interior rusher in passing situations. Seven of his nine pressures this preseason have come from the defensive tackle position.
Signature Stat: Westbrooks’ is comfortably the highest graded 4-3 defensive end of the preseason at +11.8 overall.
Sam has been outstanding — with three sacks and three pressures or quarterback hits in his 82 snaps during the preseason, and generally great all-around play. But it probably won’t be enough.
Westbrooks has a tattoo on his face (yes, his face) which reads “Laugh now, cry later.” According to ESPN, he got it while working at Toys “R” Us, to remind him to work hard so that he could make it in football. He was playing for Sacramento City College at the time.