Michael Sam might have made history in Chicago if he hadn't been drafted Saturday.
The Bears would have pursued the Missouri linebacker as an undrafted free agent, general manager Phil Emery said Saturday night.
But the Rams drafted the SEC Defensive Player of the Year 249th overall, eight picks from the end of the draft, making him the NFL's first openly gay player.
Sam's 111/2 sacks last season enticed the Bears, who would have positioned him as a defensive end.
"Obviously, when somebody has that number of sacks, you've got to pay attention to that," Emery said. "You give him a chance to come in and compete for a job."
Ultimately, the Bears weren't compelled to use a draft pick on Sam because they already are stocked at defensive end following an offseason shopping spree that included free agents Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. They also have young prospects David Bass and Cornelius Washington, among others.
Sam's sexual orientation was not a factor in the decision not to draft him, Emery said.
"We've never had that conversation because I don't think it was necessary because what we want is good football players," he said. "And he still has a skill set and production to warrant that conversation in terms of bringing him in."
As productive as Sam was in college, he was generally regarded by NFL evaluators as a tweener, someone too small to be an effective defensive end and too slow to drop into coverage -- at least at an elite level. He was widely projected to be a late-round draft pick or free agent despite his impressive credentials.
Sam granted almost no media interviews in the lead-up to the draft, and he watched Rounds 4-7 on Saturday in San Diego with friends, family and his agent. There was a TV camera capturing the scene when Sam was selected. Like many players before him, Sam cried as he got the news over the phone.
Tribune Newspapers reporter Sam Farmer contributed from New York.
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