Michael Sam's still adjusting to the CFL, but his teammates are supportive

Michael Sam, newly signed defensive end for the Montreal Alouettes CFL football team stands with teammates during rookie training camp in Sherbrooke, Quebec May 27, 2015. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

While much of the initial news of Michael Sam signing with the Montreal Alouettes was about his trailblazer status as the CFL's first openly-gay player, the focus now is on if he'll be able to make the team and contribute this year. That isn't going to be an easy task; Sam is incredibly talented, and the combination of his college and pro production suggests he would be in the NFL without teams' concerns about him as a "distraction," but making the transition to Canadian football can be quite difficult. That's particularly true for defensive ends, who often have to adjust to playing in a more stand-up role, have to adjust to being a full yard off the ball, and have to adapt to different blocking schemes, playcalls and more. Sam's also only one of the numerous defensive linemen the Alouettes have in camp. He told TSN's John Lu earlier this week that his time in camp has been a major adjustment:

"It was a lot of learning, " Sam said. "Learning to be a yard off the ball, learning to stand up in a two-point stance, just a lot of the stuff is different from what I'm used to."

Sam said he isn't worried about the amount of defensive linemen vying for a job, though, as he thinks the competition will make him better.

"I love competition," he said. "There's competition throughout the D-line. Everybody's going to compete, everybody wants to get a job. I don't have a job, I'm trying to earn my job."

Alouettes' left tackle Josh Bourke has faced a lot of different defensive ends over the nine years he's spent in the CFL. Bourke won the league's most outstanding offensive lineman trophy in 2011 and has earned seven divisional all-star selections, so he's well-qualified to judge the talent of defensive linemen. He told Lu Sam definitely has talent, and while that doesn't guarantee success, it's a good start.

"The talent's definitely there, but I've seen a lot of guys come up here with talent and not get it done," Bourke said. "But I think he's got a good future."

Bourke also told Lu that Sam's sexual orientation isn't an issue at all within the locker room.

"We've come a long way with homosexual rights in the last 10 years, and Montreal's a diverse city, and guys are very respectful," he said.

That viewpoint was echoed by defensive end John Bowman, who told Lu no one is picking on Sam because of who he is.

"He seems like a cool dude," Bowman said. "We're in the locker room hanging out, we're in the classroom, we're hanging out, singing. Everybody's the same. We treat nobody differently."

Sam echoed that in his comments to media this week, saying that the Alouettes have been very supportive.

"This is a professional environment and they've treated me like a professional," he said. "They've treated me like a rookie. I already feel like I'm one of the guys. I've been blessed to have a great team."

There are still questions about how well Sam will adapt to the CFL, but his talent is undeniable, and it's positive to hear that his strengths as a player and a person are being recognized by his teammates. It's particularly good to hear that Sam's being treated professionally. The CFL has made it very clear that they plan to accept players regardless of their sexuality, but policies are one thing and the rubber hitting the road is another, and several players in the league have caused problems with anti-gay comments on Twitter before. That hasn't been the case since Sam officially joined the league, but it's still noteworthy to see players in Montreal being so accepting by all accounts. That's as it should be. Sam's success in the CFL isn't assured, but he certainly has a good chance at it, and his success or failure should come as a result of how he performs on the field. We'll see how he does.