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D. Orlando Ledbetter

Should the Atlanta Falcons draft Michael Sam?

Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Michael Sam (52) puts pressure on Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray (11) as Georgia Bulldogs offensive tackle Kolton Houston (75) attempts to block during their game at Sanford Stadium Saturday afternoon in Athens, Ga., October 12, 2013. Missouri defeated Georgia 41-26. Murray threw for 290 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and had a fumble returned for a touchdown in the loss. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Michael Sam (52) puts pressure on Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray (11) as Georgia Bulldogs offensive tackle Kolton Houston (75) attempts to block during their game at Sanford Stadium Saturday afternoon in Athens, Ga., October 12, 2013. Missouri defeated Georgia 41-26. Murray threw for 290 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and had a fumble returned for a touchdown in the loss. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

Missouri defensive end/linebacker Michael Sam, who came out as an openly gay football player over the weekend, was coached by the Atlanta Falcons staff in the Senior Bowl in January.

A lot was made about how much of advantage teams get by coaching in the game. They get inside information on players from spending the week with them.

Right now, the Falcons know Sam better than the rest of the 31 NFL teams. During the practices, Sam, who was the SEC’s defensive player of the year, excelled when rushing the passer, but struggled when dropping in coverage.

At the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. is where the buzz was making the rounds that Sam was gay. When it became apparent that the story would come out at the NFL scouting combine, Sam and his representatives decided to tell his story.

“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage,” said NFL senior vice president of communications Greg Aiello in a statement. “Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

090508 Flowery Branch - EVALUATION BEGINS- Falcons head coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff begin evaluating players as the Falcons kickoff their first mini-camp in Flowery Branch on Friday, May 8, 2009. They'll be looking for gems at the Senior Bowl this week.  CURTIS COMPTON / ccompton@ajc.com

090508 Flowery Branch – EVALUATION BEGINS- Falcons head coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff begin evaluating players as the Falcons kickoff their first mini-camp in Flowery Branch on Friday, May 8, 2009. They’ll be looking for gems at the Senior Bowl this week. CURTIS COMPTON / ccompton@ajc.com

At the Senior Bowl, Sam worked with Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox and with linebackers coach Glenn Pires. He registered a sack in the game, which was won 20-10 by the South team.

The Falcons are in the process of looking for pass rushers and Sam had 10.5 sacks last season.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projects that Sam could go anywhere between the third and fifth rounds.

Peter King, editor-in-chief of TheMMQB.com, said that one general manager told him that Sam’s revelation would likely lead to him not being drafted.

Vinny Cerrato, a former front office executive with the Washington Redskins, said a team may elect to take the player with less controversy if there is a tied on the player’s rating with Sam.

The folks at Bovada.lv have a draft bet on when Sam will get drafted: You can bet he will be picked before 125th overall (under) or after 125th overall (over). The 1/2 point is just so there is no tie.

The Packers selected UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin with the 125th pick last season.

Falcons coach Mike Smith talks how winning starts in the locker room. He strives to have a harmonious locker room of serious-minded players, who are on-time for meetings and professional about their craft.

The coach sets the tone for the locker room and gives the team leadership the authority to police behavior. Since taking over in 2008, Smith has often referred to his “Over 30” club. Those are the veterans who set the tone in the locker room.

Smith likes to have at least one “Over 30” player in each meeting room.

Back in the 1990s Reggie White ran the Packers locker room for head coach Mike Holmgren. There was no loud profanity-laced music allowed. When they did listen to music, it was Christian rap.

Also, White didn’t feel woman should be in the locker room. Of course, later he tried to explain his “world view” on race in a disastrous speech before the Wisconsin legislature. It was no secret that the Minister of Defense felt the being gay was a sin and it cost him $6 million television contract.

We’ve moved on down the road quite a bit since those days, but there has to be a few remaining Whites in each locker room.

The big question is how they will handle an openly gay team-mate in 2014.

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