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Robert Kraft would welcome Michael Sam to Pats: 'We're about winning'

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Patriots owner Robert Kraft has some experience with the media scrutiny that comes with signing a high-profile player. Last offseason, it was Tim Tebow, former Heisman Trophy winner and national champion at Florida who helped lead the Broncos to the playoffs in 2011 before he was shipped to the Jets where he languished on the bench in 2012.

Predictably, the Patriots' training camp was a media circus -- partly because of Tebow's presence but also because Aaron Hernandez had been arrested on murder charges the month before. But coach Bill Belichick wouldn't let Tebow or Hernandez become a (wait for it...) distraction and the team went on to another division title, a 12-4 record and a trip to the AFC Championship Game (without Tebow, it turns out, who was cut before the regular-season opener).

So it's not surprising that Kraft said Monday that if former Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, who announced Sunday that he is gay, can help the Patriots win, he'd be a welcome addition to the team.

"We're about winning," Kraft told the Boston Herald. "And anyone who can come in here and help us win, I personally don't care what their ethnic background is, their racial background, the gender preference. If they can help us win, and they're about team first, then I'm happy to have him here."

Kraft says he hasn't spoken to Belichick about Sam but added that "he knows that I would encourage him if (Sam) can help us win."

“He and I have discussed this in the past,” Kraft continued. “Anyone who can help us win.”

Earlier Monday, Steelers safety Ryan Clark voiced concerns about what teammates could and couldn't say to Sam in an NFL locker room. Kraft suggested that the Pats' locker room culture would embrace and support Sam.

“If a player were gay and came into this locker room, it would be the most supportive system,” the owner said. “He'd gain strength by being in here. And it wouldn't be divisive and he'd make friends for life and they could help him win.

“I really believe that. And it was interesting to me that this young man announced to his teammates that he was gay before the season started. And they had a 12-2 record, they were in the SEC championship game, like us being in the AFC championship game, and they lost to Auburn and beat Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl.

“And he was co-defensive player of the year in the SEC," Kraft said. "And that was after full disclosure. And that makes me happy.”

Kraft isn't alone in his remarks. Both the Packers and Eagles say they would have no problem drafting Sam if he could help their respective teams.

“Any player who can come here and be a good teammate and follow the rules of our program, which is one be respectful and produce on the football field, we have room for that guy," Packers coach Mike McCarthy told the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

And when the Philadelphia Enquirer asked an Eagles spokesman if Sam's sexual preference would affect his standing on the team's draft board the spokesman replied, "Why would it change anything?"

These sentiments reinforce what former NFL wide receiver Donte' Stallworth wrote Monday: "[I]f your organization can't 'handle media coverage' [of having Sam on your roster] they will suck on the field anyway. But hey, there's always 2015."

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