ST. LOUIS – Not long after Michael Sam waved to an adoring crowd at Missouri’s season opener, he looked down at his cell phone.
It was 3 p.m. CT, the deadline for NFL teams to pare rosters to 53 players. And the Rams coach was talking to the players who didn’t make the cut.
He headed into the locker room. At some point, his phone rang with the bad news: He didn’t make the cut.
Twenty others were cut by the St. Louis Rams on Saturday, all of them mere footnotes. For Sam, it meant a roadblock in his journey to become the first openly gay player to make an NFL roster.
Over and over, coach Jeff Fisher said, it was purely a football decision.
“I will tell you this: I was pulling for Mike,” Fisher said. “I really was, and I don’t say that very often. Mike came in here and did everything we asked him to do.”
The seventh-round draft pick projected confidence while scrutinized at least as closely as Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. He’s been cheered by athletes and celebrities, denigrated by just a few.
In the end, the defensive end couldn’t make a team stocked with pass rushers and lost out to undrafted Ethan Westbrooks, who proved more productive and more versatile.
Fisher believes Sam has an NFL future, and it still could be with the Rams. If he’s not picked up by another team, he could land on the St. Louis practice squad.
“I can’t go there right now,” Fisher said. “Coaches don’t talk about practice squads because we have to see what happens. We’ll know better tomorrow afternoon.”
Wherever he lands, Fisher said “there will be no challenge, no challenges whatsoever.”
“He’s not about drawing attention to himself,” Fisher said. “He kept his head down and worked and you can’t ask anything more out of any player for that matter.”
On Twitter, roughly an hour after he was cut, Sam wrote “The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I’ve always known. The journey continues.”
He also thanked the Rams and the city of St. Louis on Twitter, adding that he looks forward to a long and successful career.
Harrison calls it a career
Pittsburgh — James Harrison spent a decade as one of the NFL’s most feared players.
What the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker fears now, however, is missing out on the childhood of his two young sons.
Harrison announced his retirement on Saturday, saying the urge to squeeze in one more season no longer competes with the need to stay at home.
The 36-year-old was a free agent after spending the 2013 season with the Cincinnati Bengals. He visited the Arizona Cardinals earlier in the week but did not sign a contract. He called the decision “a difficult one” but insisted he has no regrets.
Harrison built a reputation as one of the NFL’s toughest and most intimidating players during 11 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he worked from undrafted free agent to the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.