by Jonathan Jones :: Charlotte Observer
Originally published at Inside the Panthers
In an interview with ESPN, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said prospective NFL linebacker Michael Sam, who could be the first openly gay NFL player, would “absolutely” be accepted as a Panther.
Newton, sitting beside 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in a joint interview, said the objective in the NFL is to win football games, and if Sam can do that, Newton didn’t worry about his private life.
“His job is a linebacker,” said Newton of Sam, who was the SEC’s co-Defensive Player of the Year at Missouri this past season. “Colin said it best when he said we don’t worry about each other when we’re outside of football. Of course we have, ‘Are you OK? ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ But the main focus is, we’re football players. We’re here in this organization for one reason and one reason only. And if you’re able to help us attain that winning success, your personal life is your personal life.”
Kaepernick said he didn’t believe it would take more courage for Sam in the locker room than it did to come out publicly as he did a week ago.
“I think when he steps into that locker room everyone’s going to know that he’s there to help us win games,” Kaepernick said. “And that’s why you’re in the NFL — to help us win games. No one cares if you’re black, white, straight, gay, Christian, Jewish, whatever it may be. When you step on that field you’re a member of, in my case the 49ers, or the Carolina Panthers, that’s your job. That’s your occupation.”
So is there a possibility Sam becomes a member of the Panthers? Sam could be selected as early as the fourth round in the draft, or he could fall to the seven or completely out of the draft.
A 4-3 defensive end at Missouri, Sam is somewhat of a tweener for the NFL and is projected to be a better fit at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, so Sean McDermott’s 4-3 defense may not be the home for Sam.
A handful of teams, including the Patriots, Packers and Browns, have publicly said they would welcome Sam. A Panthers spokesman told me recently the team is not expected to release any statement regarding Sam.
By the way, Kaepernick and Newton interviewed together while promoting Cartoon Network’s Hall of Game sports awards show. The two quarterbacks hosted the event, which took place this weekend and airs tonight at 7.