Former NFL star Jerome Bettis believes it's "possible but not probable" that Michael Sam would have been selected sooner in the 2014 NFL draft if he had not announced that he was gay in February.
"The issue with him coming out may have hurt him a little bit," Bettis told Jordan Schultz on Monday during an appearance on HuffPost Live. "But I don't think it hurt him that much to where it was that significant because there is a premium on pass rushers."
In explaining the football reasons that Sam went so late in the draft, Bettis referenced Sam's lackluster performance at the NFL Scouting Combine and contended that his SEC-leading 11.5 sacks was a somewhat misleading stat as many of those came in a brief stretch of the season.
"When you look back at his season as a whole, he had the majority of his sacks in three games. He had them in bunches,". "He didn't have them throughout the full season and throughout all the tough competition that they faced. I think you look at all of those things, coupled with what he did athletically at the Combine, then it tells you where to put him and what class of athlete to put him in."
The St. Louis Rams selected Sam, a former All-American defensive end from Missouri and 2013 SEC Co-Defensive Player, with the 249th pick in the seventh round of the draft. He is the first openly gay player ever to be drafted into the NFL.
Watch Jerome's full HuffPost Live conversation here.