Jeff Fisher denies NFL made deal with Rams to draft Michael Sam

Did the Rams avoid 'Hard Knocks' in 2014 by drafting Michael Sam?

Marc Serota

It was announced Wednesday that the Los Angeles Rams would be the team featured on "Hard Knocks" this season. But one report suggests the franchise made a deal with the league to avoid being the team featured on the show in 2014.

Longtime NFL reporter Howard Balzer, in a report for 590 The Fan in St. Louis, writes that the NFL allowed the Rams — then based in St. Louis — to avoid the HBO series because they agreed to draft Michael Sam.

Sam, of course, announced he was gay prior to the 2014 draft, creating a flurry of speculation about if/when he would be drafted. As the reigning SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Sam was considered a late-round talent. Balzer reports the NFL didn't want Sam to go undrafted, so it made a deal with the Rams, who selected him in the seventh round (249th overall). The Rams were just 90 miles down the road from the University of Missouri, where Sam played in college.

Balzer notes that Rams head coach Jeff Fisher was opposed to having his team featured on "Hard Knocks" in 2014, making it odd that he would embrace the opportunity just two years later.

Fisher addressed the situation on ESPN's "Mike and Mike" on Thursday. Here's part of that conversation, via Pro Football Talk:

“That in itself is absolutely absurd, it’s 100 percent incorrect,” Fisher said. “I was really taken aback by those comments. It’s insulting, from my standpoint, as it relates to Michael. We had three seventh-round picks. When we drafted Michael he was the best player on the board. Who in their right mind would think that you give up a draft choice to avoid doing something like that?”

Fisher echoed those comments on the "Dan Patrick Show":

“Our draft room is our draft room. It’s intimate. Nobody’s gonna have any kind of influence on us whatsoever. We’re gonna do what we think is in the best interest of the organization, and at that point Michael was the best guy on our board. … There was nothing then and there’s nothing now, and I’m just really taken back by the reports that we drafted him hoping that we were not going to be on ‘Hard Knocks.’ No professional in our business would give up a draft choice with that intention. That’s bad football and that was never discussed. It’s incorrect.”

Sam was cut by the Rams before the start of the 2014 regular season and then joined the Cowboys' practice squad. After being released by Dallas, he signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League but played in only one game before leaving the team.

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