INDIANAPOLIS -- Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome doesn't doubt that Michael Sam, the first openly gay draft prospect, will be welcomed to the NFL. Newsome is less certain that the media will allow Sam to make a smooth transition to the next level.
"He's been a good player, he's been in the locker room. It's what you, the media, what are you all going to do with it?" Newsome said Saturday. "I mean, once he gets in and he can rush the quarterback, get the quarterback on the ground and make tackles, he's going to be a good teammate. But the biggest thing is how the media is going to deal with it.
"This is something that's new to the league. We all we have to adapt to it," he said. "I think our locker room has had the tendency to adapt to things a lot smoother than maybe the media does."
Saturday at the combine Sam will hold his first press conference since announcing that he is gay earlier this month, and he can expect a huge media crowd, similar in size to the one Johnny Manziel faced Friday, to greet him. His performance in front of reporters might be more scrutinized than his showing in drills in Indianapolis, but NFL personnel have said consistently they're most interested in whether Sam can help them win, not his sexual orientation. Browns head coach Mike Pettine said Saturday that he foresees a warm welcome to the NFL for Sam, as long as he proves he can succeed as a pro.
"I applaud what he did," Pettine said. "I think the NFL -- as many coaches have already stood here and said -- is a results business. Can Michael Sam help us win? Can he help the Cleveland Browns win? If he can, then there's a good chance he'll be a part of our football team."
Sam, the 2013 SEC co-defensive player of the year, is projected to be a third- to fifth-round pick by NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock, who considers Sam a tweener with no clear position that won't be an every-down player at the next level.
Since his announcement, we've heard no shortage of opinions about Sam and his future. Saturday he'll have a big stage to issue a response.