The St. Louis Rams cut Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team.
The seventh-round pick has been outspoken and confident as his progress was watched as closely as any rookie in the league. He has been cheered by athletes and celebrities. In the end, the defensive end couldn’t make a team stocked with pass-rushers and was cut from the squad on Saturday when NFL teams trimmed their rosters to 53 active players.
Sam still has a chance to get picked up by another team or to make the Rams’ practice squad. Players with fewer than four seasons in the league are subject to waivers. Those who clear waivers and have practice squad eligibility can sign Sunday when teams fill out their 10-member developmental units.
‘‘There will be no challenge, no challenges whatsoever,’’ for whatever team picks up Sam, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.
‘‘There’s no challenge with respect to Mike Sam,’’ Fisher said. ‘‘He’s not about drawing attention to himself. He kept his head down and worked and you can’t ask anything more out of any player for that matter.’’
On Twitter, roughly an hour after he was cut, Sam wrote, ‘‘The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I’ve always known. The journey continues’’
He also thanked the Rams and city of St. Louis on Twitter, adding that he looks forward to a long and successful career.
Earlier Saturday, he attended the University of Missouri’s opener in Columbia, a 1½-hour drive west on Interstate-70 from Rams Park. He was introduced to the crowd in the end zone alongside defensive E.J. Gaines, a sixth-round pick who made the team.
Sam blew a kiss and waved to the crowd, then walked back to the sideline. He posed for a few pictures then started looking at his phone and headed for the locker room.
The Rams selected Sam, the Southeastern Conference co-defensive player of the year at Missouri, with the 249th overall pick.
Fisher was proud to have made the landmark pick, but he made clear from the start that he chose Sam because he thought he had the talent to make it.
The Rams drafted Sam even though they didn’t need help at defensive end, where they have a pair of first-round picks as starters. The Rams were so well-stocked with picks, taking 11 players overall, they had leeway to take a shot. Fisher said Sam’s value as a player ‘‘was off the charts.’’
‘‘I’m determined to be great,’’ Sam said at his introductory news conference, packed with reporters. ‘‘I understand that right now you guys want to make a big deal of it.’’
For the first time in his career, Champ Bailey was told he isn’t good enough.
Jettisoned by the Saints after a difficult training camp, the 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback was one of the most notable names to be cut. Vested veterans who were released this weekend are free agents who can sign with anybody. But some might have to wait to get scooped up because their full 2014 salaries are in effect guaranteed if they’re on a roster in Week 1.
It just might be the end of a stellar career for Bailey, who said after the Super Bowl that he wouldn’t retire ‘‘because I still know I can play this game.’’
Only seven players in NFL history have more Pro Bowl selections than Bailey, who signed with the Saints following his release from the Broncos in the spring.
Bailey missed 11 games last season after hurting his left foot in the preseason. He returned for Denver’s stretch run and reached his first Super Bowl but clearly wasn’t the same player.
Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham isn’t going to get a second chance with the New York Giants. The team placed him on season-long injured reserve and he is not under contract for next season. Manningham’s legacy with the Giants will be his spectacular, late fourth-quarter sideline catch to ignite the Giants’ win over the Patriots in the 2012 Super Bowl. He was re-signed after playing for San Francisco, but he had offseason knee surgery followed by a poor training camp. He injured a calf in the preseason finale against the Patriots on Thursday, sealing his fate . . . Offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, who had a tumultuous departure from the Dolphins last October amid a bullying scandal, made the 49ers’ roster. The team waived offensive lineman Adam Snyder, parting ways with a nine-year veteran who was expected to be a top backup at center and both guard positions this season.
Among the other notable players dismissed was Broncos nine-year defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, who started 25 games for the defending AFC champs over the past two seasons. Vickerson was beaten out by Marvin Austin, who signed a one-year, no-bonus deal for a shot at resurrecting his career with the Peyton Manning-led Broncos. Not only did he outshine Vickerson, who carried a $2.266 million cap figure, but with a $570,000 salary, Austin is the much cheaper option . . . The Jets cut wide receiver Stephen Hill, a 2012 second-round draft pick out of Georgia Tech who finished the past two seasons on injured reserve, and cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who left the team before a preseason game against the Giants on Aug. 22 and was suspended . . . The Steelers released tight end Rob Blanchflower, a seventh-round choice out of Massachusetts. The Leominster native had issues with a sprained ankle that hampered his development . . . Former Boston College tight end Chris Pantale was cut by the Jets and ex-BC defensive back Al Louis-Jean was dropped by the Chicago Bears.
James Harrison, who came to terms with the Cardinals Friday, announced his retirement on Facebook. The linebacker played in Cincinnati last year after a decade in Pittsburgh, where he was released multiple times early in his career before becoming a star at age 29. He ended up as a five-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro, and 2008 Defensive Player of the Year . . . The Bills lured Kyle Orton to Buffalo to back up second-year starter EJ Manuel in their latest quarterback shuffle. Orton, who backed up Tony Romo in Dallas the past two seasons, could be in line for significant playing time in Buffalo, where Manuel was both injury-prone and inconsistent as a rookie last year.