The Browns and the Green Bay Packers met with Missouri defensive end Michael Sam following his workout at his pro day Thursday afternoon, ESPN’s Shelley Smith reported on NFL Insiders.
Sam is famous because he’s the first openly gay NFL Draft prospect. But Sam, the Southeastern Conference’s co-defensive player of the year last season, is trying to draw attention for what he can bring teams on the field.
“I just wish you guys would just see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the gay football player,” Sam said last month at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
After running the 40-yard dash in an official time of 4.91 seconds at the combine, Sam had a better showing at his pro day. According to NFLDraftScout.com, he posted an unofficial time of 4.73 seconds Thursday on one attempt. A strained right hamstring kept him from running the 40 a second time.
The 6-foot-2, 263-pound Sam benched pressed 225 pounds 19 times at his pro day after registering 17 reps at the combine. He also posted a 30-inch vertical jump Thursday, 4½ inches higher than he got at the combine.
Although Sam played defensive end in college, he’s aiming to convince teams with 3-4 defenses that he’s versatile enough to play outside linebacker for them. He went through drills designed for defensive ends and outside linebackers during his pro day.
The Browns will run a 3-4, multifront defense under their new head coach, Mike Pettine.
“It’s interesting that the Packers and the Browns [are meeting with Sam because they] are two 3-4 teams,” ESPN analyst and former general manager Bill Polian said on NFL Insiders. “They are true-blue 3-4 teams, so they’re seeing him as an outside linebacker, as an edge-setter, and he can do that very well. He can set the edge very well. He’s very good against blocks, even big blocks from tackles and people like that. He can collision fullbacks and guards. That’s about the best thing he does. So the question is can they turn him into the kind of outside linebacker pass rusher that they would like him to be in the 3-4.”
Sam, who led the SEC last season in sacks (10½) and tackles for loss (18), performed better in the defensive end drills than the ones geared toward outside linebackers, Polian said.
“He was better with his hand down,” Polian said. “There’s no question about that because he’s used to doing that. When he stands up, that’s something that he’s not used to doing that’ll take some learning for him. So it’s understandable that he won’t look fluid or complete when he does it. But he does have power. He is a great worker. He’s a guy who really competes, and that goes a long way in the National Football League. So this was not a total loss by any means.
“He was not a first-rounder going in or even a second-rounder going in. People saw that. He performed today the way I saw him perform on tape, so it tells you that he’s very likely to be drafted, and then depending upon which team he goes to, [that will determine] whether he becomes a 3-4 outside linebacker or he’s a rush end in the 4-3. But either way, he’s going to have to make a living on special teams in the early going because that’s what all rookies and backups have to do. He’s not going to come in and start at either position, so he’s going to have to make his money on special teams.”
Polian projects Sam as a third- to sixth-round pick. NFLDraftScout.com projects him as defensive end in the NFL and a fifth- or sixth-round selection.
Outside linebacker is one of the Browns’ deepest positions. Starters Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger form a rotation along with key backups Barkevious Mingo and Quentin Groves.
So on paper, it wouldn’t make much sense for the Browns to draft Sam because he might be best suited to play defensive end in a 4-3 defense, and outside linebacker isn’t one of their pressing needs.
Pettine, though, made it clear that Sam being gay wouldn’t preclude the Browns from drafting him.
“I applaud what he did,” Pettine said at the combine. “In the NFL, it’s a results business. Can Michael Sam help the Cleveland Browns win? If he can, then there’s a good chance he’ll be a part of our football team.”
Potential QB target
Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr met with the Browns, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings between Wednesday night and his pro day workout Thursday afternoon, the Fresno Bee reported.
Most draft analysts consider Carr the fourth-best quarterback in this year’s draft. If the Browns don’t pick a quarterback fourth overall, they might target Carr with their second first-round pick, No. 26 overall, provided he’s still available.
Carr felt ill Wednesday night and was vomiting, so he received IVs Thursday morning at Fresno State’s medical complex. His older brother, former No. 1 overall pick David Carr, posted videos of the ordeal on Instagram.
The younger Carr completed 56-of-63 passes during his pro day, the Fresno Bee reported. Most of the incomplete passes were results of overthrows on deep balls.
Former Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman Paul McQuistan and former Buffalo Bills defensive end Alex Carrington paid visits to the Browns as free agents Wednesday, but those visits didn’t extend into Thursday, a team spokesman said.
That doesn’t mean the Browns won’t sign one or both of them. It just means the wait to find out will continue because each of them left without a contract.
Rough time in Cleveland
Former Browns strong safety T.J. Ward signed a four-year, $23 million deal with the Denver Broncos as an unrestricted free agent last week, and he’s excited about a change of scenery. The Browns have gone 18-46 since they drafted Ward in the second round in 2010, fired three head coaches, two general managers and switched owners.
“It was kind of rough,” Ward said of his four seasons with the Browns during an interview Thursday with SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I’ve been through a lot in this short career. I’m happy to be somewhere with a little more stability and have that guy under center [quarterback Peyton Manning] because that’s what we didn’t have. That entire time, we had a fluctuation of coaches, quarterbacks. I think I’ve been through more owners than [most] players have been through coaches.
“I’m happy to be in Denver. I appreciate everything Cleveland did for me, the fans, the city, you know, it’s great living out there. But I just want to be somewhere where I can win, and I want to win now. So I’m just very happy to be in Denver.”
Apparently, Ward took heat from Browns fans on social media after his comments surfaced.
He responded with the following tweet: “Quotes get misunderstood all the time. Just FYI. Cleveland offered me nothing. Boom! There you have it. #GoBroncos.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.