By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
9:06 PM EDT, April 15, 2014
As former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam continues his preparations for the NFL draft, several teams have maintained contact with the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
The Ravens are among the teams that have displayed the most interest in Sam since the NFL scouting combine along with the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets, according to league sources.
The All-American selection is poised to become the first openly gay NFL player.
During the NFL scouting combine, Sam had a formal meeting with the Ravens.
"A trailblazer?” Sam said during the combine. "I feel like I'm Michael Sam. I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam, the football player, instead of Michael Sam, the gay football player. There's a lot of support out there. I just want to do what I do, and that's play football."
Sam has been projected to go anywhere in the draft from the third round to later rounds.
The Ravens discussed Sam during interviews at the combine.
"He's been a good player, he's been in a locker room," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "It's what you, the media — what are you all going to do with him? Once he gets in and he can rush the quarterback and get the quarterback on the ground and make tackles, he's going to be a good teammate. The biggest thing is how the media is going to deal with him.
"This is something that's new to the league. We all will have to adapt to it. What I was talking about is I think our locker room has had the tendency to adapt to things a lot smoother than maybe the media does."
Earlier this year, retired former Ravens linebacker and special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo told The Baltimore Sun that he believes Sam isn't a great fit for the Ravens' defensive scheme. However, he thought that the organization would otherwise be a great fit for Sam in terms of the locker room culture.
Following a sluggish workout at the combine where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.91 seconds and had a 25-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times, Sam improved his numbers during his campus Pro Day workout at Missouri.
During his Pro Day, Sam ran the 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds, had a 30-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds 19 times.
As a senior, Sam had 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for losses and was named a first-team All-American and a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection.
The 6-foot-2, 256-pound college defensive end struggled during the Senior Bowl during outside linebacker drills as he attempts to transition to a new position.
During the combine, Harbaugh said the Ravens would have no issue accepting Sam.
"Any player that has the qualities to be a great player and a good teammate is a guy that fits us," Harbaugh said. "We’re really good at helping players, any player, become a part of our team. That goes to all the things that I think are happening in the NFL the last couple of months.
"Any player that has a good heart and wants to be a good teammate, who loves football, we’re good at helping them become part of a team. And anything that deters from that or detracts from that is not what we’re going to be about.”