Former coach Tony Dungy, who works as an in-studio analyst for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” recently was quoted as saying he wouldn’t have drafted Michael Sam, the first openly gay player picked by an NFL team.

Dungy, seeking to clarify his comments about the St. Louis Rams’ rookie defensive end that resulted in criticism and controversy, released a statement.

The former Tampa Bay and Indianapolis coach said he gave an interview to The Tampa Tribune several weeks ago; the story was published Sunday.

“I was asked whether I would have drafted Michael Sam and I answered that I would not have drafted him,” Dungy said in his statement. “I gave my honest answer, which is that I felt drafting him would bring much distraction to the team. At the time … the Oprah Winfrey reality show that was going to chronicle Michael’s first season had been announced. (Note: The show is on hold.)

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“I was not asked whether or not Michael Sam deserves an opportunity to play in the NFL. He absolutely does.

“I was not asked whether his sexual orientation should play a part in the evaluation process. It should not.

“I was not asked whether I would have a problem having Michael Sam on my team. I would not.

“I have been asked all of those questions several times in the last three months and have always answered them the same way by saying that playing in the NFL is, and should be, about merit.”

Dungy added, “I do not believe Michael’s sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization. I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction. Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction.”


• Atlanta signed linebacker Pat Angerer, 27, who started nine games for Indianapolis last season.

• San Diego released oft-injured linebacker Larry English, 28.