ST. LOUIS – The overflow media crowd at Rams Park did not intimidate Michael Sam, who seemed almost eager for the attention and scrutiny.
The first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team was confident and engaged Tuesday as he was formally introduced by the St. Louis Rams, who took him in the seventh round.
Sam, a linebacker prospect, said, “I’m determined to be great.”
Sam, who came out to teammates and coaches before his senior season at Missouri, disagreed his sexuality had been a secret.
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“Apparently, everybody else makes a big deal out of it,” Sam said. “But my teammates and my school didn’t.
“It’s OK to be who you are. Whether you’re gay, straight, black or white, it’s OK to be comfortable in your own skin.”
About 80 media members attended the session that included Sam. In front of the complex, cameramen took footage of other photographers waiting to get footage of Sam.
“We’ve definitely got to be aware that Michael Sam and the social impact of the pick needs a special place,” Rams general manager Les Snead told ESPN Radio. “We’ll prepare for that. We’ll handle it, but at the end of the day we want this to become as normal for everybody as possible.”
How does Sam handle the hateful response his selection created from some in social media and elsewhere?
“How do I handle it?”Sam asked rhetorically. “I don’t read it.”
Haden gets big deal
CLEVELAND – Cornerback Joe Haden signed a five-year, $68 million extension with the Cleveland Browns.
The 25-year-old Haden’s deal runs through the 2019 season and includes $45 million guaranteed, agent Drew Rosenhaus told The Associated Press.
Last week, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman signed a four-year deal reportedly worth $57.4 million, with $40 million guaranteed.
• Defensive end Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers spent Tuesday in jail in Charlotte, N.C., after being arrested on misdemeanor charges of assault on a woman and communicating threats. Hardy, 25, was to have a court appearance Wednesday.
A 24-year-old woman told police she had been physically assaulted and threatened by Hardy. She had bruises and scratches, but declined treatment, according to a police report.
• The Jacksonville Jaguars were awarded third-year linebacker Allen Bradford off waivers from the New York Giants. Bradford, 25, is a former Seahawk who started his pro career as a running back.
• Jacksonville removed the nameplate above the locker of receiver Justin Blackmon, who is suspended without pay indefinitely for repeated violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy.
“I think it’s an absolute tragedy,” team owner Shad Khan said of the Blackmon situation.