INDIANAPOLIS -- Michael Sam today was asked if he'd thought about how he would react if he encountered harassment or slurs when he reaches the NFL. Would it lead to a fight?
"A fight?," he asked, sounding surprised at the suggestion. "If someone wants to call me a name, I would have a conversation with that guy, and hopefully it won't lead to nothing else."
The first openly gay player at the NFL scouting combine said nothing of the sort has occurred in Indianapolis, where he is trying to showcase himself as a draft-worthy defensive end or outside linebacker. Sounding confident and in command in front of a throng of reporters, Sam said none of the teams he's met with so far has asked about his sexual orientation. Teams were warned against doing so during interviews and meetings with their would-be draft picks.
Said 49ers Trent Baalke on Friday: "We're going to treat that the same way we would treat any other player. We're going to evaluate the film, take a hard look at the fit for our organization. What can he do for us on the field, within the community? His decision to come out has no bearing on where we place him on our board."
Baalke compared Sam to former 49er Parys Haralson, a fifth-round pick who, like Sam, played defensive end in college but was converted to outside linebacker.
Sam's experience so far echoes what he went through at the University of Missouri. He told teammates his secret before the season began and said he had no issues. "Everyone could be normal around me," he said. "If we wanted to, we could joke around. We're brothers. It's a brotherhood, it's a family. We could say things to each other. We don't draw blood. It's all fun and games."
After he came out earlier this month, the reaction mostly has been good. He said some people approach him and "start crying in my arms." Sam was wearing a rainbow button that said "Stand with Sam" that was given to him by a woman at a basketball game.
"The positive outweighs the negative," he said. "I'm kind of surprised, actually."
The smiling and charasmatic defender said he missed much of the media reaction to his revelation because he's been busy training for the combine. He and the rest of the defensive linemen will work out here on Monday. He said he wished reporters would treat him like the NFL teams and fellow draft prospects have so far.
"I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player not Michael Sam the gay football player," he said.
-- Matt Barrows