Michael Sam's 2nd chance comes on Dallas Cowboys practice squad

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Michael Sam's 2nd chance comes on Dallas Cowboys practice squad
Montreal Alouettes defensive lineman Michael Sam speaks to reporters after returning to practice with the Canadian Football League team Monday, June 29, 2015, in Montreal. Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, could not make the roster of the St. Louis Rams and signed with Montreal. He left the Alouettes for what he said were personal reasons, but returned to the team this week. (AP Photo/Jimmy Golen)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 16: NFL player Michael Sam and fiance` Vito Cammisano attend the premiere of ABC's 'Dancing With The Stars' season 20 at HYDE Sunset: Kitchen + Cocktails on March 16, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 11: ***HOUSE COVERAGE*** Michael Sam at Azure Luxury Pool at The Palazzo in Las Vegas, NV on April 11, 2015. Credit: Erik Kabik Photography/Retna Ltd./MediaPunch/IPX
Jason Collins, left, and Michael Sam, right, attend the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at the Waldorf Astoria on Saturday, May 9, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 09: Nominee Jason Collins, Chris Stone and Michael Sam attend the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards In New York on May 9, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for GLAAD)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 06: NFL player Michael Sam attends the SEC Championship game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Missouri Tigers at the Georgia Dome on December 6, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 16: Vito Cammisano and NFL player Michael Sam attend The 2014 ESPYS at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images For ESPYS)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 16: NFL player Michael Sam accepts the Arthur Ashe Courage Award onstage during the 2014 ESPYS at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Defensive End Michael Sam, from Missouri, runs through a drill during the NFL Super Regional Combine football workout, Sunday, March 22, 2015, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Dallas Cowboys practice squad player defensive end Michael Sam speaks to reporters after team practice at the team's headquarters Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Defensive end Michael Sam, from Missouri, moves around a pylon during the NFL Super Regional Combine football workout, Sunday, March 22, 2015 in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Dallas Cowboys Michael Sam, center, talks on the field before the start of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Dallas Cowboys' Michael Sam laughs before an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Dallas Cowboys practice squad player defensive end Michael Sam (46) looks around the field during team practice Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
EARTH CITY, MO - MAY 13: St. Louis Rams draft pick Michael Sam addresses the media during a press conference at Rams Park on May 13, 2014 in Earth City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - AUGUST 28: Defensive end Michael Sam #96 of the St. Louis Rams warms up prior to action against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 16: Defensive end Michael Sam #96 of the St. Louis Rams in action during the preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Edward Jones Dome on August 16, 2014 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 8: Michael Sam #96 of the St. Louis Rams watches from the bench during the second half of a pre-season against the New Orleans Saints game at the Edward Jones Dome on August 8, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Saints beat the Rams 26-24. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys practice squad player defensive end Michael Sam (46) runs a drill during team practice Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 24: Former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam looks on during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 24, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I've always known. The journey continues.
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Robin Roberts talks to Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay player who might be drafted into the NFL, on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, airing WEDNESDAY, MAY 7 (7-9am, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 24: Former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam takes part in positions drills during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 24, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 24: Former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam looks on during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 24, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 22: Former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam speaks to the media during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 22, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2012 file photo, Missouri's Michael Sam (52) runs onto the field along with their teammates before the start of an NCAA college football game against Georgia in Columbia, Mo. Sam was selected in the seventh round, 249th overall, by the St. Louis Rams in the NFL draft Saturday, May 10, 2014. The Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year last season for Missouri came out as gay in media interviews this year. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2014, file photo, Missouri's All-American defensive end Michael Sam claps during the Cotton Bowl trophy presentation at halftime of an NCAA college basketball game between Missouri and Tennessee in Columbia, Mo. Sam was selected in the seventh round, 249th overall, by the St. Louis Rams in the NFL draft Saturday, May 10, 2014. The Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year last season for Missouri came out as gay in media interviews this year. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson, File)
Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam (52) warms up before the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)
FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2013, file photo, Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam takes up his position during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M in Columbia, Mo. Sam was selected in the seventh round, 249th overall, by the St. Louis Rams in the NFL draft Saturday, May 10, 2014. The Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year last season for Missouri came out as gay in media interviews this year. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam (52) reacts after Auburn fumbled and Missouri recovered during the first half of the Southeastern Conference NCAA football championship game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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By SCHUYLER DIXON

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Michael Sam waded through a crowd of reporters and was settling in front of yet another bank of cameras when someone asked if this was what it was like in St. Louis.

"The heat?" Sam said, drawing laughter from two dozen or so people surrounding him as he stood in front of a large Dallas Cowboys star on a wall just outside the locker room.

No, the latest version of the circus after the league's first openly gay player signed to the practice squad of America's Team. He's unlikely to get into the opener Sunday against San Francisco and might still face long odds of joining an active roster anytime soon.

But Sam got his second chance to make it in the NFL four days after the Rams released the seventh-round pick when they had to cut the roster to 53 players.

"You guys follow me around like hawks," Sam said after going through his first late-morning workout with the Cowboys. "I've been tired of it since February. I expected it."

The Cowboys, who are seeking help with their pass rush because of injuries and the offseason release of franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware, expected it, too. Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten said coach Jason Garrett addressed the signing with the team.

"I think he does it as good as anybody I've ever been around, of addressing issues and moving forward and putting our focus on what it needs to be and that's a good 49ers football team," Witten said.

Garrett said the move was "about football" and deflected any questions about the impact of bringing in Sam or how it might affect the locker room.

"That's your decision what question you want to ask," Garrett told a larger-than-usual crowd at his daily news conference. "We're focused on football. That's where our attention is, and what people say outside this organization is really up to them."

Owner Jerry Jones said Rams coach Jeff Fisher spoke highly of how Sam fit in with his teammates there.

"He was exemplary," said Jones, speaking at a Texas Lottery news conference in Austin. "He's relentless as a worker. He's relentless as a pass rusher. He is going to have to make up for a little speed. He's going to have to make up for size, but how many times have we seen that? That's what makes football."

Sam went through stretching and individual drills with his fellow defensive linemen during the brief portion of practice that reporters could watch. Dallas made room for him on the 10-player practice squad by releasing rookie linebacker Will Smith.

Any team can sign Sam off the Cowboys' practice squad, but would have to put him on the 53-man roster for a minimum of four weeks.

"I just want to do anything I can," said Sam, who faced long odds to make the St. Louis roster because of the team's depth on the defensive front. "On special teams, left end, right end, whatever. If you want me to hold the ball, I'll do it to perfection."

Being on the Dallas roster means Sam is returning to his home state. He was a lightly regarded recruit out of Hitchcock, Texas, a town of about 7,000 along the Gulf Coast about 40 miles southeast of Houston. Sam came out to his Missouri teammates before his senior season, when he was the SEC defensive player with 11 1/2 sacks. He told the rest of the world three months before the May draft.

The Cowboys didn't have Sam on their draft board, with Jones saying his size and skill set had him somewhere between defensive end and outside linebacker. Dallas passed on him with three of five seventh-round picks before the Rams got him at pick No. 249 out of 256.

But Dallas heads into the opener with serious questions about its defensive line after giving up the most yards in the NFL last year - and third-most in league history.

Defensive end George Selvie, who has been battling a shoulder injury in recent weeks, is the only Dallas lineman who had more than two sacks last year. Tackle Terrell McClain, one of the key free agent signings, is likely out of the opener with a sprained ankle. The other major free agent pickup, tackle Henry Melton, missed all the preseason games with a groin injury. He hasn't played since tearing a knee ligament with Chicago in Week 3 last year.

Rookie DeMarcus Lawrence, who was drafted in the second round with the hope that he could at least partially fill Ware's void, can't play until after the eighth game. He's on short-term injured reserve with a broken right foot. And while the Cowboys will get defensive tackle Josh Brent back, he faces a 10-game suspension over his conviction in an intoxication manslaughter case involving the 2012 death of teammate Jerry Brown.

"We are looking are looking for pressure, for pressure players and that's his position," Jones said of Sam. "We hope that he can refine his skills. He's not ready to go at all but can he come in and learn?"

If the answer is yes, his teammates are ready to support him.

"It's not a big deal," running back DeMarco Murray said. "If he's here to help us win, treat him like any other guy. Doesn't matter."

---

AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.



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