Cowboys practice squad player defensive end Michael Sam (46) runs a drill during practice Wednesday Wednesday in Irving, Texas. (LM Otero / Associated Press)
Irving, Texas — Michael Sam waded through a crowd of reporters and was settling in front of yet another bank of cameras when someone asked if this was what it was like in St. Louis.
“The heat?” Sam said, drawing laughter from two dozen or so people surrounding him as he stood in front of a large Dallas Cowboys star on a wall just outside the locker room.
No, the latest version of the circus after the league’s first openly gay player signed to the practice squad of America’s Team. He’s unlikely to get into the opener Sunday against San Francisco and might still face long odds of joining an active roster anytime soon.
But Sam got his second chance to make it in the NFL four days after the Rams released the seventh-round pick when they had to cut the roster to 53 players.
“You guys follow me around like hawks,” Sam said after going through his first late-morning workout with the Cowboys. “I’ve been tired of it since February. I expected it.”
The Cowboys, who are seeking help with their pass rush because of injuries and the offseason release of franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware, expected it, too. Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten said coach Jason Garrett addressed the signing with the team.
“I think he does it as good as anybody I’ve ever been around, of addressing issues and moving forward and putting our focus on what it needs to be and that’s a good 49ers football team,” Witten said.
Garrett said the move was “about football” and deflected any questions about the impact of bringing in Sam or how it might affect the locker room.
“That’s your decision what question you want to ask,” Garrett told a larger-than-usual crowd at his daily news conference. “We’re focused on football. That’s where our attention is, and what people say outside this organization is really up to them.”
Owner Jerry Jones said Rams coach Jeff Fisher spoke highly of how Sam fit in with his teammates there.
“He was exemplary,” said Jones, speaking at a Texas Lottery news conference in Austin. “He’s relentless as a worker. He’s relentless as a pass rusher. He is going to have to make up for a little speed. He’s going to have to make up for size, but how many times have we seen that? That’s what makes football.”
Sam went through stretching and individual drills with his fellow defensive linemen during the brief portion of practice that reporters could watch. Dallas made room for him on the 10-player practice squad by releasing rookie linebacker Will Smith.
Any team can sign Sam off the Cowboys’ practice squad, but would have to put him on the 53-man roster for a minimum of four weeks.
“I just want to do anything I can,” said Sam, who faced long odds to make the St. Louis roster because of the team’s depth on the defensive front. “On special teams, left end, right end, whatever. If you want me to hold the ball, I’ll do it to perfection.”
Positive test confuses Welker
Wes Welker said he doesn’t know what a “Molly” is.
He also claims to keep track of every substance that he puts into his body.
All of which leads the Broncos receiver to suspect someone might have slipped something in his drink at the Kentucky Derby.
Got all that?
It pretty much sums up the last 24 hours for Welker, suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy.
Pro Football Talk is reporting Welker tested positive after using MDMA, also known as Molly, at the Kentucky Derby in May. The five-time Pro Bowler suggested to the Denver Post someone might have somehow put it in his drink at the horse race.
“I wouldn’t have any idea where to get a Molly or what a Molly is,” Welker said. “That’s a joke. I don’t do marijuana, I don’t do drugs. I don’t do any drugs.”
Normally, league officials announce such violations on Monday. News of Welker’s ban didn’t come down until late Tuesday, after the league offices had closed and the Broncos already has finished drawing up blueprints for their opener against the Colts, undoubtedly with Welker playing a prominent role.
ESPN first reported Welker’s suspension, saying the violation had to do with amphetamines.
Welker told the Denver Post in an email he was “as shocked as everyone at today’s news.” He noted he’s meticulous about what he puts in his body and would “never knowingly take a substance to gain a competitive advantage in any way.”
Welker said he never concerned himself with the league’s drug rules but now realizes those policies “are clearly flawed.”
While it takes multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policies to trigger a suspension, a four-game ban is issued for a single violation of the ban on performance-enhancing drugs.
Welker’s suspension will cost him roughly $706,000.
“Tonight’s news regarding Wes is very disappointing, but we understand the league’s authority in this area,” coach John Fox said in a statement.
Welker was expected to play Sunday against the Colts but had been out since he sustained his third concussion since Nov. 17 in an exhibition against the Texans on Aug. 23.
Welker will now be out of action until Oct. 12, when the Broncos visit the Jets.
Seattle will raise the curtain on the 2014 season tonight, hosting Green Bay.
It’s the first regular-season meeting between the teams since the “Fail Mary” two years ago when Seattle won on a disputed touchdown on the final play of a game that helped bring an end to the use of replacement officials.
Junior Seau’s family opted out of a proposed NFL legal settlement with ex-players over concussion-related injuries.
They will continue the wrongful death lawsuit against the league.
Seau, a star linebacker for 20 seasons who made 11 Pro Bowls, committed suicide in 2012.
More than 4,500 former players filed a class-action suit against the league. A federal preliminarily approved the league’s settlement proposal in July, which could exceed $675 million in total damages and involve as many as 20,000 retired players.
... The Saints have given outside linebackerJunior Galette a four-year extension worth $41.5 million and have brought back receiver Robert Meachem.
... A glitch in the Madden 15 video game reduced Browns rookie Chris Kirksey from a 6-foot-2, 235-pounder to a 14-inch player, running around on the field among giants. Kirksey has always played the video game with his brothers and friends.
Kirksey posted, “No matter how small you are, have big dreams, and live big!” on his Twitter account.
... Quincy Enunwa, a member of the Jets practice squad, was arrested last Sunday after being accused of fighting at a New Jersey hotel near the team’s practice facility. Florham Park police say he was charged with simple assault and later released on his own recognizance.
... The NFL Health and Safety committee says concussions decreased by 13 percent overall during the 2013 season from the previous year, and the number of concussions coming from helmet-to-helmet contact was down 23 percent.