ST. LOUIS – Not long after Michael Sam waved to an adoring crowd at Missouri’s season opener, he looked down at his cellphone.
It was the deadline for NFL teams to pare rosters to 53 players. And the St. Louis Rams coach was talking to the players who didn’t make the cut Saturday.
Sam headed into the locker room. His phone rang with the bad news: He failed to make the cut.
It meant a roadblock in his journey to become the first openly gay active player to make an NFL roster.
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Over and over, coach Jeff Fisher said, it was purely a football decision.
“I will tell you this: I was pulling for Mike,” Fisher said. “I really was, and I don’t say that very often. Mike came in here and did everything we asked him to do.”
Sam, a seventh-round draft pick, has been cheered by athletes and celebrities. In the end, the defensive end from Missouri couldn’t make a team stocked with pass rushers and lost out to undrafted Ethan Westbrooks from West Texas A&M.
Fisher said he believes Sam has an NFL future, and it still could be with the Rams. If Sam is not picked up by another team, he could land on the St. Louis practice squad.
On Twitter, Sam wrote: “The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I’ve always known. The journey continues.”
Meanwhile, for the first time in his career, Champ Bailey was told he isn’t good enough. The 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback was jettisoned by the New Orleans Saints after a difficult training camp.
Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, who started 25 games for Denver over the past two seasons, was released.
Former Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson, who was slowed by a hamstring injury in training camp, was let go by Cleveland.
The New York Jets dropped receiver Stephen Hill, a 2012 second-round draft pick, and cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who was suspended after leaving the team before its exhibition game against the New York Giants.
Five-time Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison, 36, announced his retirement. He was a free agent after spending last season with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Buffalo signed backup quarterback Kyle Orton and released Jeff Tuel, a former Washington State QB.
• Former Washington Huskies who were cut included defensive end Caesar Rayford (by Dallas), linebacker Victor Aiyewa (by San Diego) and cornerback Greg Ducre (by San Diego).
• Ex-Washington State offensive lineman John Fullington was cut by Green Bay and tight end Nathan Overbay from Eastern Washington was let go by Baltimore.