Cowboys sign Sam to practice squad

Irving, TX ( - The Dallas Cowboys signed defensive lineman Michael Sam to their practice squad on Wednesday.

The league's first openly gay active player was among those waived by the St. Louis Rams as the club whittled its roster to the 53-man limit on Saturday.

In Dallas he will have a chance to compete for a roster spot at a position the Cowboys have needed to fill since the offseason.

"The way we view the practice roster is your job is to help facilitate practice, but it's also a great opportunity for us to develop and evaluate personnel," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett on Wednesday. "We're bringing a player in we want to see on the practice field. We got nothing but good reports about him from people in St. Louis and we want to give him a chance to come in and help our football team."

Sam, the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, stated his case that he can play in the NFL with a strong preseason in which he compiled 11 tackles and three sacks in four games. The former Missouri standout led St. Louis with six tackles in its preseason finale against Miami.

The seventh-round pick in this year's draft who publicly declared his homosexuality prior to February's scouting combine, was beaten out by rookie free agent Ethan Westbrooks for the last of nine defensive ends kept by the Rams.

"We did not draft him, but like with a ton of players around this league, we evaluate these guys throughout the preseason. He did some good things there (St. Louis)," added Garrett. "One of the things he got caught up in St. Louis was they have a really good defensive line."

Dallas owner Jerry Jones made news earlier this preseason when he talked about the potential of drafting Johnny Manziel, making this signing question the Cowboys' motives whether Sam was brought in as a player or newsmaker.

"This is about football," said Garrett, whose team opens against San Francisco in Week 1. "We evaluated him as a football player and felt he could help us.

"I think we have to be careful not to spend too much time on a practice squad player."

The Cowboys released linebacker Will Smith, a seventh-round pick, from the practice squad to open a spot for Sam.