What the Cowboys’ Practice Squad Means for Michael Sam’s NFL Career

After being cut by the St. Louis Rams, defensive lineman Michael Sam has been officially picked up by the Dallas Cowboys. Sam, the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL, was cut from the Missouri team in the last round of roster consolidation for the Rams and Dallas, who are in desperate need of any defensive players they can get, and officially signed him to their team’s practice squad. While there’s no evidence that homophobia was at the root of Sam’s dismissal from St. Louis, it falls under the same ‘it’s not because he’s gay’ that caused Sam to be the first SEC defensive player of the year not to get drafted in the first round since 2005.

“We’re bringing a player in we wanted to see on the practice field — we got nothing but good reports about him from our people and the people in St. Louis,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett told reporters. “We just want to give him a chance to come in and see if he can help our football team.”

So, Sam’s been signed to the practice squad, which means that he won’t be eligible to actually play in an NFL game right away, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s got one foot out of the league already — loads of players spend time getting seasoned before stepping into an active role on a given football team. Whatever cultural implications people want to project onto Sam’s journey, it appears that they’ll have a little while longer to do so, since players can spend up to three years on a practice squad, and can be signed by any team in the league during their tenure.