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Rams DE Michael Sam makes NFL preseason debut

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

For Michael Sam, it's all about making the 53-man roster. (USATSI)
For Michael Sam, it's all about making the 53-man roster. (USATSI)

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With about five minutes to go in the first half of the Rams' first preseason game of 2014, rookie seventh-rounder Michael Sam made his NFL debut. This is newsworthy for one reason: Sam is league's first openly gay player. Now, like just about everyone else, he has to make the team.

Before the game, coach Jeff Fisher said that he expected Sam to play most of the second half but the reality is that the former Missouri linebacker faces long odds to make the final 53-man roster. He's currently the Rams' ninth-best defensive lineman, and is listed third on the depth chart at defensive end.

His main competition could be another rookie, Ethan Westbrooks, who was undrafted out of Division II West Texas A&M. The 6-4, 267-pound Westbrooks is bigger and faster than Sam, who is listed at 6-2, 261.

And make no mistake: Westbrook knows that he could be the person that keeps Sam off the Week 1 roster.

"The whole me-and-Michael Sam thing, I wish him nothing but the best in his endeavors on the football field," Westbrooks told ESPN.com earlier this week. "He has a competitive spirit, I have a competitive spirit -- what better way to really just boost one another or see what one another is really made of, to have that (competition).

"You make your friends and friendships along the way, but it's a competitive business, and the way they put it is it's a productive business. So you definitely have to be able to compete and produce, and with that, I guess the cream rises to the top."

So while Sam's story is an important one, his sexuality is a footnote to the bigger question: Can he play football in the NFL?

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