MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — For Michael Sam, it’s time for another waiting game, another chapter of waiting for the phone to ring and seeing what someone on the other end says about his future.
And as was the case on NFL draft weekend, Sam is confident things will work out as he hopes.
Sam’s preseason came to an end Thursday night, with a team-best six tackles in the St. Louis Rams’ 14-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins. The Rams, like all NFL teams, have to cut down their rosters to 53 players by Saturday afternoon — and Sam, the league’s first openly gay player, seems squarely on the bubble.
“I’m very confident,” Sam said. “I’m going to sleep really well tonight and I’m very confident I’m going to be on a team, the Rams or any other team in the NFL.”
He called Thursday his final exam, and afterward gave himself a B-plus grade.
Sometime Saturday, he’ll find out if that’s was enough to make the Rams’ roster.
“I think he can play in this league,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said, “as can some of the other guys on this team who had good preseasons.”
Austin Davis threw for 162 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to Austin Pettis, and Greg Zuerlein made a pair of long field goals for the Rams.
Davis came into training camp as an afterthought, buried at the bottom of the depth chart. He’s now the backup behind Shaun Hill, who became the starter when Sam Bradford was lost for the season with a torn ligament in his left knee.
Given the way he’s played in the preseason, Davis might be ready. He completed 12 of 19 passes, albeit largely against second- and third-stringers, and finished the preseason 39 of 63 for 534 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.
“I thought Austin was a little excited early,” Fisher said. “He sailed some balls but settled down and made some plays.”
Sam, a seventh-round draft pick, didn’t start but got playing time on the first Miami drive of the night. He made two tackles in a span of three plays to help force the Dolphins into a punt.
Afterward, as the Rams’ locker room emptied out, Sam said his work merits him a shot.
That is, a victory shot.
If he makes the team, Sam plans to celebrate with a drink and a cigar.
“I did everything I could,” said Sam, who will go see his former college teammates at Missouri open their season on Saturday while the Rams decide his fate. “Now it’s out of my hands. I’m at the NFL mercy, the coaches’ mercy. So we wait.”
Both teams held out plenty of regulars, standard for teams in the final preseason game. Rosters will be cut to 53 by Saturday afternoon, meaning about 700 players in uniform around the league on Thursday night will be either headed to practice squads or looking for new teams shortly.
“Jobs are open,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “That’s why we’re here.”
Marcus Thigpen is one of those whose immediate future is a great unknown. He showed why he shouldn’t make the Dolphins in the first half, then why he should in the second half.
Trying to make the team as a receiver and returner, Thigpen muffed a punt badly in the first half, then had Thigpen had a 32-yard punt return midway through the fourth quarter to set up Miami’s go-ahead score.
“The first half, I felt like I was kind of out of it,” Thigpen said. “I didn’t have a rhythm going and I knew I had to pick it up. The second half, I came out with a different attitude and knew I had to make some plays.”
Matt Hazel caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Seth Lobato with 6:15 left for the Dolphins, who rallied with two TDs in the final quarter. Daniel Thomas, making his preseason debut and playing with the belief his spot on the roster wasn’t secure, had a 5-yard touchdown run for Miami.
NOTES: Trey Watts had 51 rushing yards on 13 attempts for the Rams. … Dolphins K Caleb Sturgis, who has been hurt for much of the preseason, warmed up well, Philbin said. Sturgis had both Miami extra-points.