The Lions have joined a few other NFL teams in support of Michael Sam, Missouri's All-American defensive end who will likely be the first openly gay player in any of the four major sports in the United States.
Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year in 2013, made his announcement public Sunday through the New York Times, ESPN and Outsports.
"As an organization and football team, the Detroit Lions place the highest priority on inclusiveness and diversity," Lions president Tom Lewand said in a statement. "We applaud Michael Sam for his courage and proactive approach, and we will evaluate him, like every player, based solely on his ability to help the Lions win football games."
Most draft analysts viewed Sam as a third- to seventh-round pick before he came out Sunday. Many NFL teams had heard rumblings about his sexual orientation prior to the announcement because Sam told his Missouri teammates before the 2013 season began.
The NFL publicly supported Sam shortly after his story went public Sunday.
"We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage," the league said in a statement. "Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."
Sam had 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss last season for the Tigers, who went 12-2 and won the SEC's East division. Despite the impressive season, Sam's size is a concern for NFL scouts because at 6-foot-1 5/8 and 260 pounds, he's a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker than a 4-3 defensive end at the next level.
The Lions will likely look for reinforcements at both defensive end and outside linebacker this offseason, though Sam may not be an ideal fit in defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's 4-3 scheme.
Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery also released a statement supporting Sam on Monday.
"Michael stated this, and I agree with his thoughts. It is about his skill set as a football player to add positively to a teamís goals and that's how he will be evaluated," Emery said, via the Chicago Tribune.
Elsewhere in the NFC North, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy echoed the sentiment of Lewand and Emery, saying Sam will be judged on his football skills.
"I think you definitely have to feel he's a courageous young man, but my understanding is he's a talented young player," McCarthy said, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "We always from Day 1 talked about our program, about our culture. Ted is going through the draft process right now and at the end of the day it comes down to good football players.
"Any player who can come here and be a good teammate and follow the rules of our program, which is (to) be respectful and produce on the football field, we have room for that guy."