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Thursday, October 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 51.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Is the NFL ready for Michael Sam?

Michael Sam instantly became the most famous football player in America after coming out as gay Sunday, three months before he was expected to be picked in the NFL draft. What happens next is anyone's guess.

The day after Sam's announcement, most sports media types -- never the smartest bunch -- were saying the right things, sort of. ESPN's website published a reaction piece under the weapons-grade dumb headline "Michael Sam a novelty? Not really." However, the writer was LZ Granderson, himself a gay man, whose piece fully grasped the obvious difference between the first active, big-time football player coming out versus players doing so after their careers.

ESPN commentator Herm Edwards, a former NFL coach, raised eyebrows with a ditzy comparison of Sam to some hypothetical player with "off-the-field issues" who's "bringing baggage into your locker room." In fairness, though, it's often unclear exactly what Edwards is talking about; Sunday, he appeared to have been stirred from a deep slumber just before his interview.

More important than media reaction is the NFL's. Sports Illustrated's website published multiple reports Monday quoting several unnamed league executives and scouts that "some locker rooms are stuck in the '50s" and still not ready for a gay player. Sigh.

I have no idea whether Sam can play in the pros, although he was a first-team All-American last season at Missouri and the SEC's defensive player of the year, which must count for something. It would be surprising and suspicious if he falls to the bottom of the draft or isn't selected at all.

The only real problem with Sam is that he picked the wrong position back in Pop Warner league. He's a defensive end, but in football parlance, a "mike" is a middle linebacker and a "sam" is a strong-side linebacker. Mike Sam would be the coolest linebacker name ever.

Good luck, Mike Sam.

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