Former Patriots tight end Christian Fauria checked in with Mut & Merloni on Tuesday to discuss the Michael Sam situation and whether an openly gay player can have success in the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Fauria agreed that the Patriots would be better positioned than some other teams to handle a situation like this.
“We dealt with the [Chad] Ochocincos and we dealt with the Randy Mosses and we dealt with a murder [charge],” Fauria said. “So there’s really nothing that can really I guess surprise this team or they won’t be ready to handle. … I’m sure they’ll address it and then that will be it.”
Fauria said concern about how the league will welcome a gay player is overblown.
“I think the NFL’s been ready forever,” Fauria said. “You’re always going to have some knucklehead, some maturity issues by some guy who just doesn’t know any better — I mean, that happens now. But when I think about this, this guy, the unchartered territories, like Lewis and Clark-type stuff, and nobody’s ever done it before, how’s it going to happen — I think more importantly he’s a leader. I think the guys respect him for his playing ability.
“Now, whether he gets along with guys or not and how the coach has to kind of manage that, it has nothing to do with whether he likes guys or girls.”
Added Fauria: “Honestly, I don’t see it being a big deal as far as those guys adjusting to it.”
Since Sam’s announcement, some NFL personnel have questioned his ability, and his draft stock appears to be falling following an unimpressive performance at the Senior Bowl. Although Sam was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, he’s widely expected to have to move from defensive end to linebacker due to his lack of size.
“He’s the problem with Sam: He’s 6-2, 255, played with his hand down on the ground, they ran away from him a lot. But he has a really quick burst,” Fauria said. “The question is, at 6-2, 255, is he going to be able to stay with his hand on the ground? I say no on first and second down. Maybe as a third-down-type of pass rusher. But at the same time, he may be more of a Jamie Collins-type guy, without the experience on the back end, playing safety, playing linebacker and playing strong safety. So, he might be one of those hybrid-type guys that you kind of need to find a position for, to see how he handles, can he drop in space, can he tackle in space. It’s a big difference going against a big, chubby offensive tackle who can’t really move well and you’re playing at home and he can’t hear anything and you can get a jump off the ball.
“That’s what the combine is for, that’s what the individual meetings are for. I don’t think anyone will have an issue with him as far as his interviews go. I think they’ll love him as far as his interviews go. Now, do his ankles bend enough, does he have enough hip rotation? I don’t know, that’s for those experts to decide. And they’ll just weigh the positives and the negatives.
“Him being gay, how much do you weigh into that? I think zero. I don’t think you weigh it at all. It’s not like he’s robbing, thieving and he’s out getting arrested. This is not like what we had with Aaron Hernandez before he got drafted in here and we had all those questions marks. There’s no personality question marks on him.”
Fauria, who spent one season (2006) in Washington after leaving the Patriots, also weighed in on the controversy over the Redskins name.
“I always thought that the fans there and anybody who I ever met who was a Redskins fan really loved it. They revered that name. More than anything, it was a lot of respect that they gave to that,” he said. “Now, with that being said, at some point when the public starts speaking out louder than usual, you’ve got to realize, what are you fighting for? Do you want to keep digging your heels in just because you don’t want to change the name?
“I’m part Indian, maybe like a handful, maybe like a hand-worth of Indian. But I didn’t grow up on a reservation. I didn’t grow up with some of the issues that they did. So, it’s not offensive to me. But I can understand how that congregation might definitely think that it’s disgusting.”
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