Dallas (AFP) - Michael Sam, trying to become the first openly gay player to make a National Football League team, joined the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad Wednesday with his target a place on the roster.
The 24-year-old defensive end joined the Cowboys after playing in the pre-season for the St. Louis Rams, who released Sam on Saturday in the final cuts to reach the NFL's 53-player roster limit.
The Rams also rejected Sam for a practice roster spot because his position was one at which they were well stocked with talent, but the Cowboys picked up Sam for the exact opposite reason as their defensive line needs a spark.
The Cowboys made no quarterback sacks in four pre-season games. Sam had three on his own as well as 11 tackles in four appearances with the Rams.
"He has a chance to come in and compete for a spot at a position where we have had a need since the start of training camp," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.
Joining the Dallas practice squad means that Sam will serve as a training opponent for members of the Cowboys' regular roster while learning the team's defensive schemes and systems with the chance to improve and compete for a roster spot, and the chance to become the first openly gay player in an NFL game.
"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," Garrett said.
"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 was taken by St. Louis in the seventh round of May's NFL Draft after publicly declaring his homosexuality in February.
"We did not draft him, but like with a ton of players around this league, we evaluate these guys throughout the pre-season. He did some good things," Garrett said.
"One of the things he got caught up in St. Louis was they have a really good defensive line."
While some note that Sam jerseys are among the top-10 sellers, Garrett said the move to bring Sam onto the practice squad was not about his historic role or his profit-making potential.
"This is about football," Garrett said. "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, who face San Francisco at home on Sunday in their season opener, released linebacker Will Smith from the practice squad to make room for Sam.