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Tags: NFL

Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ ‘Rocky Top’ at Training Camp



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Manning — the dancer?

 

Tags: NFL

Misremembering Mantle’s Final Season



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Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post has suggested that The Mick’s 1968 season, his last, was a sorry failure. In an attempt to contrast Derek Jeter’s going-away party with that of other Yankee greats, Vaccaro made the following claim in last Friday’s column:

You don’t have to wander very far to know how challenging that can be. Mickey Mantle long regretted how it ended for him, a 1968 season in which he could barely walk, in which he hit .237 and knocked four points off his career average, leaving him at .298.

Even author and former Yankee PR director Marty Appel, writing on this topic early last month, seemed to imply as much:

And Mick hit .237 that year, which didn’t make it any better.

(By the way, Appel noted “no one knew for sure, including Mickey, that it would be his final season.” He didn’t turn in his retirement papers until the following spring.)

Mantle wished he hadn’t suited up for the 1968 season — Yankees management had talked him out of retiring — but the 37-year-old still managed to appear in all but ten games, matching or exceeding his attendance record from the previous six years. Heck, he stole six bases in eight tries, pretty impressive for a guy we’ve been led to believe was playing with two amputated legs.

Sure, he may have posted a career low batting average in 1968 but it was by no means a precipitous drop from his penultimate season (.245).

Mantle was the most productive Yankee on the 1968 roster. Only Roy White’s 137 OPS+ was in the neighborhood of his 143.

If you’re wondering why his OPS+ in his final campaign is virtually identical to his perfectly cromulent 1953 season, note that 1968 is known to historians as the notorious “Year of the Pitcher.” Seven starters posted ERAs below 2.00. The AL batting champ was Carl Yastrzemski, the previous season’s Triple Crown winner, who hit .301. And yet, Mantle’s on-base percentage was a robust .385, second in the Junior Circuit to Yaz’s .426 and fourth-best overall.

Okay, I’m not naïve: Mantle didn’t look like Mantle in 1968. He limped, not quite the image a celebrity who enjoyed the limelight wanted to show off. This was the second year that he was anchored at first base and not patrolling the more familiar outfield. He wasn’t hitting for much power.

And yet The Mick remained an asset to his ball club, not an appendage. Suggesting otherwise by focusing on his batting average, a terribly flawed statistic, does his memory a disservice.

More here and here.

Tags: NFL

Meet the 40-Year-Old Mother of Two Who Is Now an NFL Cheerleader



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Good for her:

Kriste Lewis always dreamed of being an NFL cheerleader.

Well, her dream has come true: She recently made the Saintsations, the New Orleans cheerleading squad.

While that doesn’t sound unique at all, this part of her story is:

She’s 40 years old and the mother of two boys, ages 11 and 14.

40-year old mother of 2 earns spot on 2014 New Orleans @Saintsations roster http://t.co/sdqxFSHNxQ #Saints pic.twitter.com/LK5lkWVqu9

— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) July 16, 2014

“There were a lot of young, beautiful girls,” Lewis told ABC News of her competition, who ranged in age from 18 to 30. “It was a fear. I will not lie.”

Lewis also has a kidney disease, which she discussed with “Good Morning America” this week.

The rest here.

Tags: NFL

Meet the 2014 AL WAR-Stars



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The second half of the season is about to get underway, but what say we examine who were the Junior Circuit’s top position players through the All-Star Break, according to WAR?

As most of you know (and the rest of you really ought to catch up), WAR stands for “wins above replacement.” It is a useful (not to be confused with “perfect”), all-in-one approximation combining both offensive (including baserunning) and defensive performance. For those who require a primer, Alex Remington offered up a few years ago on Yahoo’s Big League Stew an easy-to-digest yet pretty thorough explanation of Fangraphs’ version of WAR — which we are using here.

Here are the AL’s top performers to date:

1B: Jose Abreu (3.2 WAR)

Writing at CBS Sports, Chris Cwik believes the odds are good that Abreu’s power stroke is here to stay:

What we have here is a pretty unique player. While there are a number of stats that scream regression, we also have some evidence that Abreu just hits the ball really hard when he makes contact. Both his approach and his average fly ball distance give some hope that he can remain an elite power hitter. Regression should be expected, as he’s on a ridiculous pace right now, but there’s no reason to think Abreu will suddenly turn into a pumpkin.

2B: Ian Kinsler, Robinson Cano (3.5)

Now a Mariner, Cano hasn’t exactly been crushing the ball — he’s hit only seven home runs — but is reaching base with greater frequency (.393 OBP). Meanwhile, Kinsler has been reborn in Detroit and James Krueger of Call to the Pen thinks he knows why: Kinsler loves the four-seam fastball and, lo and behold, he’s seeing more of the pitch at a frequency not seen since the 2009 season.

SS: Erick Aybar (2.9)

Aybar was a late addition to the AL All-Star Game roster. The 30-year-old Angel is having a solid season at the plate, and the advanced defensive metrics rate him highly.

3B: Kyle Seager (3.7)

There’s no bigger surprise on this list than Seattle’s Seager, who edged out division rival Josh Donaldson. Safeco Park may intimidate many sluggers, just not him. All but two of his 15 home runs have been hit at home.

LF: Alex Gordon (4.6)

A sore thumb convinced Gordon to pull out of the Midsummer Classic, a shame because he’s one of the more underrated outfielders in the game. Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan explains the principal reason why he’s so popular in Kansas City:

Alex Gordon‘s always had a great arm. Alex Gordon’s always piled up the kills. Between 2011 — 2013, Gordon led all outfielders in UZR’s [Ultimate Zone Rating] arm rating. He led all outfielders in DRS’ [Defensive Runs Saved] arm rating. He led all outfielders in assists, with 54. The next-best was Jeff Francoeur‘s 40. Gordon was drafted as a third baseman but he’s become an all-around star in left field. This season, Gordon has just five outfield assists, almost halfway through. The last three years, he’s finished with 20, 17, and 17. This season, Gordon’s also on pace for career-best arm ratings. Alex Gordon is showing the value of having a gun you seldom use.

CF: Mike Trout (5.5)

The All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (.310/.400/.606) may have finished runner-up in the AL MVP voting in the past two seasons but, barring injury, the Millville (New Jersey) Meteor will almost certainly run away with the trophy in 2014.

RF: Jose Bautista (3.1)

Only Trout and Bautista are repeat AL WAR-Stars. The latter’s .397 wOBA in an offense-starved environment is nothing short of eye-popping. On a related note, Will Leitch, writing in Sports on Earth, described what happened when Joey Bats took his swings during Monday’s Home Run Derby:

During Jose Bautista’s first-round display — in which he hit 10 homers, including two upper deckers in a row that were essentially hit to the same fan — the whole American League dugout went apesh-t. It was like their heads all exploded at once, and then reconstituted themselves so that they could explode again.

C: Salvador Perez (2.9)

Watch the 24-year-old’s cannon of an arm nail an unsuspecting Kevin Kiermaier at first base last week:

 

 

DH: Victor Martinez (2.5)

Baseball Prospectus’ Matt Sussman believes that V-Mart, who snuck past Nelson Cruz, is due for serious regression in the second half; still, the 35-year-old switch-hitter is only four home runs away from surpassing his single-season high of 25, accomplished way back in 2007.

The NL WAR-Stars will be announced tomorrow. Last year’s champions may be found here.

Tags: NFL

Reveille 6/30/14



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Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday at the office a bit more bearable:

  • After another dominant start from Clayton Kershaw, a 6–0 shutout against the visiting Cardinals, the Dodgers have snatched first place in the NL West from the hated (and slumping) Giants.
  • Using Dwight Gooden as a comp, SB Nation’s Steven Goldman shows that Tim Lincecum was able to exceed his present-day abilities to throw his second no-hitter in less than one calendar year.
  • As of this morning, the A’s have the best record in the bigs, at 51–30, and look well positioned to capture the AL West for the third consecutive season. More than a decade removed from the publication of Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, Will Leitch of New York Magazine explores what general manager Billy Beane is doing right this time around. Among the findings:

The A’s do one thing more than any other team: They platoon. Most teams would look at players like A’s catchers John Jaso and Derek Norris and lament how badly they struggle against pitchers who throw from the same side of the plate as they hit. This is seen as a liability. But Beane and the A’s see it as a potential strength. Thanks to platoons, you can send a left-handed batter to the plate to face a right-handed pitcher and get a favorable matchup anytime. Which is what the A’s do. Oakland has 12 players with more than 100 at-bats this season, tied for the most in the majors, and last season, according to Baseball Prospectus, Oakland had the second-highest percentage of “favorable-handedness matchups.” And in baseball, every little bit matters.

It is difficult to find players who can do a ton of things well, and if you find them, they’re quite expensive. But it’s not as tough to find guys who do one or two things extremely well. And this has another advantage: Platooning keeps the players’ “counting” stats down, which means it keeps them inexpensive. Jaso is a valuable hitter, but he’s not even in the top ten among catchers in homers, RBIs, or hits. That’s because he’s 17th in at-bats. Arbitrators — who determine player salaries for the first part of players’ careers —,look at these stats, and value them, more than they should, which means part-time players will cost relatively less than they should. It’s another market inefficiency Beane exploits.

  • Despite their recent success in the standings, the A’s have headaches away from the diamond. Fangraphs’ Wendy Thurm briefs us on why last week’s agreement to extend the team’s lease at O.Co Coliseum for an additional ten years got nixed shortly thereafter.
  • Thurm’s colleague, Paul Swydan, reminds us in “They Can’t All Be George Springer” that even top prospects who rise to big-league stardom don’t always do so right away.

  • Gaslamp Ball ’s “jbox” rightly takes umbrage at Mets color analyst Keith Hernandez for mocking pitcher Alex Torres for wearing one of the new, oversized caps designed to provide increased protection from batted balls.

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Tags: NFL

One Last Time, Here’s Manny



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Manny Ramirez is not quite ready to hang up his spikes, at least at the minor-league level. Mark Townsend of Yahoo Sports’ Big League Stew reminds us that the slugger is joining Iowa, the Triple-A club for the Cubs, to serve as player-coach.

Ramirez, 42, spent the past month at the Cubs’ spring training facility in Arizona preparing for his role by working out with minor league and rehabbing players, while also working himself into playing shape. Apparently, it didn’t take him long to knock off whatever rust he may have had. In an extended spring training game on June 4, he launched a mammoth 450-foot home run that was punctuated with a momentous bat flip. . . .

His role is also clearly defined. The Cubs have no plans on calling him up to the big league roster, regardless of how well he performs. He’s there to teach and talk hitting with anyone who will listen, which stands to benefit the organization greatly. The payback to Ramirez goes beyond earning a paycheck, it’s an opportunity to satisfy his own desires to continue getting at-bats in a competitive environment.

Actually, I see no reason why Theo Epstein shouldn’t consider bringing up Ramirez for a handful of plate appearances in September, once the Pacific League season has concluded. I suspect there are a few North Siders who would want one last opportunity to see Manny try to launch a ball onto Waveland Avenue.

More here.

Tags: NFL

ACLU: ‘Redskins Wrong, But Legal’



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Gabe Rottman of the ACLU writes:

An earlier blog on this site argued, rightly, that Dan Snyder, owner of a certain Washington football club, should voluntarily change the name of his team. He should. It’s demeaning and wrong, full stop.

The ACLU, one of the oldest racial justice organizations in the country, has an institutional obligation to call this stuff out when we see it. To the extent we are just adding our views on racial prejudice to the marketplace of ideas, this is not a free speech issue, despite what some have said.

But there are a few proposals in Washington that would force Snyder to change the name, and they raise broader issues regarding the government’s troubling ability to censor offensive speech. These proposals should be resisted as unwise for reasons that go beyond the immediate issue.

First, there’s an ongoing battle at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to revoke the team name’s registration as a trademark. Under the relevant section of the Lanham Act, the USPTO may not register vulgar (technically “scandalous” or “immoral”) trademarks or those that “disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt or disrepute.”

The latter potentially includes the Washington NFL mark, but also and unfortunately something like this prominent lesbian motorcycle club, which proudly self-identifies using an epithet (and had to fight, in court, to maintain trademark protection).

The courts that have looked at the issue generally dismiss First Amendment arguments, finding that the only thing that’s denied is formal registration, not the trademark itself, which attaches automatically as soon as you use a distinctive slogan, logo, etc., in commerce. In practice, however, denial of registration would make it much more difficult to punish someone who uses the logo without permission, which would likely force Snyder to change the name.

At first blush, it might seem obvious that the USPTO should have the ability to deny registration to racist or vulgar trademarks. But, as with all things free speech, who gets to decide what’s racist or vulgar? That’s right, the government, which is just ill-equipped to make these kinds of determinations. The motorcycle group above is a good example of the potential unintended consequences.

To its credit, the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) engages in a very searching inquiry into whether a particular mark is offensive and considers extensive testimony and evidence by social scientists, advocacy groups, linguists, lexicographers, and others.

At the end of the day, however, the ultimate determination is inherently subjective and the TTAB and reviewing courts have a significant amount of discretion in deciding what’s disparaging and what’s not. It’s not unlike “I know it when I see it” in obscenity law, and it raises similar problems.

The rest here.

Tags: NFL

Hail Mary? Brett Favre Stars in Ads for Cochran



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Politico:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is bringing in a big-time closer for the Mississippi Senate race: NFL legend Brett Favre.

Favre, a Gulfport native who has coached football at Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, appears in a new Chamber ad praising Cochran as a “proven and respected leader” who can deliver education funding for Mississippi.

“I’ve learned through football that strong leadership makes the difference between winning and losing. And when it comes to our state’s future, trust me: Mississippi can win and win big with Thad Cochran,” Favre says in the commercial. “Thad Cochran always delivers, just like he did during Katrina.”

The former Green Bay Packers quarterback may be one of the few voices and faces that can stand out on Mississippi’s cluttered airwaves in the final days of Cochran’s nomination fight against state Sen. Chris McDaniel. The two are competing in a June 24 runoff after they deadlocked in the first round of voting earlier this month.

The rest here.

Tags: NFL

NFL’s Redskins Lose Trademark Protection



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Washington Post:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins trademark registration, calling the football team’s name “disparaging to Native Americans.”

The landmark case, which appeared before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, was filed on behalf of five Native Americans. It was the second time such a case was filed.

“This victory was a long time coming and reflects the hard work of many attorneys at our firm,” said lead attorney Jesse Witten, of Drinker Biddle & Reath.

Federal trademark law does not permit registration of trademarks that “may disparage” individuals or groups or “bring them into contempt or disrepute.” The ruling pertains to six different trademarks associated with the team, each containing the word “Redskin.”

The rest here.

Future story: Non-Trademarked “Redskins” Merchandise Hits Stores; NFL, Snyder Powerless to Stop It

Tags: NFL

Harry Reid Is Boycotting the Redskins



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From the man who referred to the future president as “light-skinned,” he’s boycotting the Redskins until the team changes its name and won’t attend home games.

And not going to games isn’t a boycott; not watching the team at all is a boycott. Will Senator Reid make that pledge?

Tags: NFL

Anti-Redskins Ad Runs During the NBA Finals



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Via ABC News:

Native Americans are sending a loud message to the Washington Redskins.

A northern California tribe paid for a commercial to air in seven major U.S. cities during halftime of Tuesday’s NBA Finals game, their latest plea for the NFL team to change its “racist” name and mascot.

“In my opinion, the ‘r’ word is just as derogatory a slur as the ‘n’ word,” Marshall McKay, chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, said in a video about the “Change the Mascot” campaign.

The minute-long commercial, called “Proud to Be,” is a shortened version of a similar ad that was posted online earlier this year. In it, a narrator lists adjectives that could describe Native Americans — “Indian,” “Navajo, “Sioux,” “Spiritualist,” “strong” — before the camera zooms in on a Redskins helmet, “the one thing they don’t” call themselves.

The ad, which premiered Sunday night in Miami during Game 2 of the NBA finals, was slated to play in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Sacramento, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. during the Game 3 broadcast.

Video of the ad as it ran here. A longer version from “Change the Mascot,” which has been on YouTube for months, can bee seen here.

 

 

Tags: NFL

Dan Marino Is Not Suing the NFL



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Via the Sun Sentinel:

Dan Marino to withdraw concussion lawsuit against NFL

Dan Marino, the legendary Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback, intends to withdraw from a lawsuit against the NFL for concussions.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Monday that the former quarterback joined 14 other players to sue the league.

According to a source, Marino, 52, and his lawyers will be in discussions to withdraw from the lawsuit that was filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

“It was never Marino’s intention to initiate litigation in this case, but to ensure that in the event he had adverse health consequences down the road, he would be covered with health benefits. They are working to correct the error,” a source said to the Sun-Sentinel.

Marino and his lawyers are attempting to discover how Marino’s name was joined to the lawsuit. Marino has said in the past he had two reported concussions during his 17-year career.

The rest here.

Tags: NFL

Obama Claims He Suffered Concussions Playing Football



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Video via NBC News, “Obama ‘Sure’ He Suffered Concussions Playing Football.” 

As @Iowahawkblog writes, “President suffered a concussion so severe that he remembers playing football.”

Maybe he got the concussion while playing football against T-Bone, who I hear was one helluva middle linebacker in his day?

 

Tags: NFL

Obama Hosts White House Concussion Summit



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Details here.

Exit question that we all know the answer to: Will the press finally ask for details about Hillary’s concussion?

Tags: NFL

Michael Sam Reality Show ‘Postponed’



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CBS Sports:

If you were looking forward to watching the Rams linebacker Michael Sam documentary series on the Oprah Winfrey Network, you might have a longer wait than expected. Or a wait that will never end.

On Friday evening, OWN announced, via the St. Louis Post Dispatch, that the Sam documentary would be postponed.

With the backlash that occurred when the new show was announced earlier this week, this shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Particularly since it makes little sense for a seventh-round draft pick who has an uphill battle to make the team to continue on with a project that might alienate his employers and/or his colleagues.

The rest here.

Tags: NFL

Peyton Manning Delivers Interception-Free Graduation Speech at UVA



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Via the Denver Post:

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning took it a little easier with his passes to seniors at the University of Virginia than he did with kids on his Saturday Night Live United Way skit.

Manning spoke on Saturday morning at U.Va.’s 2014 valedictory exercises, in which seniors present class gifts and university awards. Manning’s wife, Ashley, is a 1997 graduate of U.Va.’s McIntire School of Commerce. The Class of 2014 graduation committee invited Manning to speak because of “his sports career and off-the-field commitments are consistent examples of leadership, excellence and generosity,” Sarah Salinas, the committee’s chairwoman, said in a release.

“My wife Ashley is the smartest person I know,” Manning said during the remarks. “I know a lot of that has to do with her four years at U.Va. I like to tell a lot of people that Ashley came to Virginia because she couldn’t get into Tennessee.

“One regret I have is that I never had a chance to throw any football passes here on this lawn. So if you will indulge me, I’m going to fulfill that dream right now. I’m going to challenge three graduating seniors to catch a pass.”

He called up three seniors to catch passes from him (though didn’t throw the kind you might see him sling on Sundays).

“If you’re nervous, I understand. Seriously, there is no pressure here at all. If you drop it, it will not be on YouTube, I promise,” he said.

No one dropped a pass.

Manning gave more traditional post-collegiate advice as well, encouraging graduates to take risks and be prepared to be “rookies” all over again when entering the real world.

The rest here.

Tags: NFL

Coming Soon to Oprah’s Network: Michael Sam, the TV Series



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Entertainment Weekly:

Michael Sam, who made history when he became the first openly gay football player drafted into the NFL, is getting his own documentary series.

Oprah Winfrey’s cable network OWN announced a series following Sam as he prepares to play pro ball. The show will be produced by Craig Piligian and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Amy Rice (By The People: The Election of Barack Obama), who also made OWN’s recent candid Lindsay Lohan docu-series.

From the release, the as-yet-untitled show is described as “a deeply personal, up-close look at the remarkable man at the center of this groundbreaking moment in professional sports, as the former University of Missouri football player enters the competitive world of professional football. Cameras will follow Sam as he works to earn his spot on the St. Louis Rams all while under the intense scrutiny of being the first openly gay player in the NFL.”

It sounds more like a reality show than a documentary. And for somebody who said he wanted to “focus” on football, this seems like an unnecessary distraction, to both Sam and the Rams. 

Tags: NFL

NFL Draft Soundtrack Released



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Here’s the list of the “walk-up” songs for every prospect attending the draft.

Note: Johnny Manziel picked a song about himself.

 

 

Tags: NFL

New Career for Drew Bledsoe: Vintner



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For real. The Massachusetts state house just approved a proposal to allow direct sales of wine, which would allow Bledsoe to ship his Washington State wine to Patriots fans.

Two lawmakers would have the state loosen the state’s regulation of wine sales at vineyards and online.

New policy proposals from Rep. William Straus and Minority Leader Brad Jones were adopted without discussion during the third and final day of debate on the state’s annual budget. They would need to clear the Senate before becoming law.

The Jones amendment would create a new license for direct wine sales, which is something former New England Patriots quarterback and current vintner Drew Bledsoe has lobbied for. The license would be available to wineries with federal permits, costing $300 initially and $150 for renewal.

The wineries would need to pay taxes on the shipments and would be penalized for shipping to anyone underage.

And it turns out, Drew Bledsoe makes a good bottle of wine:

Oh sure, he’s in the New England Patriots Hall of Fame, but his Doubleback Cabernet landed on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list in its very first year. Holy touchdown!

Wine Specator gave his 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla Valley a whopping 95 points.

And more recently the 2010 got 95 Points from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. The guy is still scoring.

But I bet there’s probably a vintner on the bench who would make an even better one. The rest here.

Tags: NFL

NFL Draft: Michael Sam is a ‘Non-Entity,’ ‘Short and Slow’



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New York Post:

After the big names are off the board in the NFL Draft, the biggest question may not be when Michael Sam will be picked, it may be whether Michael Sam will be picked at all.

Despite being named the Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC, Sam’s underwhelming physical measurables and his lack of a defined role in defenses could prevent him from being the first openly gay player selected in the draft.

In a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel poll of 21 scouts, 12 said they wouldn’t draft Sam, while three said he should be taken in the fifth round, three said sixth round and three said seventh round. Seven of the scouts said they wouldn’t even sign Sam as an undrafted free agent.

The piece characterized Sam as “a non-entity” in addressing the absence of draft chatter. Sam’s shaky draft status is based on the belief he is too small to play linebacker and too slow to play defensive end, a poor fit in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense.

“It’s a tough fit when you’re short and slow and a try-hard overachiever,” one AFC executive said. “That’s the issue.”

Tags: NFL

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