Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, was cut by the St. Louis Rams on Saturday.
The move came as teams across the league reduced their squads to 53 players, and is bound to raise questions about the role of Sam’s sexuality in the decision.
In May, Sam was drafted at the end of the seventh round despite being named the top defensive played in the Southeastern Conference his senior year at the University of Missouri.
He was taken with the 249th pick out of a total of 256 players drafted.
He gave a mediocre performance at the scouting combine, which some believed contributed to his low draft status.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Sam would be treated like every other player hoping to make the team.
But Sam also attracted a lot of attention. He canceled a planned reality show soon after it was announced.
““I will tell you this: I was pulling for Mike, I really was,” Fisher said Saturday in a news conference.
“And I don’t say that very often. Mike came in here and did everything we asked him to do.”
He added: “It was a football decision, and the decision is no different than any other decision that we make. It was a football decision. It was a football decision back in May to draft Mike.”
Sam performed decently during the preseason, including sacking Johnny Manziel, the highly touted rookie quarterback on the Cleveland Browns.
He can still make the Rams’ practice squad.
“There’s no challenge with respect to Mike Sam,” Fisher said, referring to a team that might want to pick up Sam.
“He’s not about drawing attention to himself. He kept his head down and worked and you can’t ask anything more out of any player for that matter.”
According to ESPN, Sam had 11 tackles and three sacks during the preseason and had a team-high six tackles in the last preseason game.
In a series of tweets, Sam thanked the Rams for drafting him, for “allowing me to show I can play at this level.”
He said he looked forward to building on the progress he felt he made “toward a long and successful career.”
“The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I’ve always known,” Sam said. “The journey continues.”