Tony Dungy clarifies his comments on Michael Sam

St. Louis defensive end Michael Sam practices during the first day of training camp for rookies in Earth City, Mo., on July 22.
St. Louis defensive end Michael Sam practices during the first day of training camp for rookies in Earth City, Mo., on July 22.
(Huy Mach / Associated Press)

Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy elaborated Wednesday on his controversial comments regarding the St. Louis Rams’ Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player.

Dungy, now an NBC analyst, spoke at length about the Sam situation on “The Dan Patrick Show,” a day after issuing a statement to clarify his comments about Sam in the aftermath of the NFL draft. Those comments were to the Tampa Tribune for an article published Sunday.

Dungy told the newspaper: “I wouldn’t have taken him. Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.


“It’s not going to be totally smooth ... things will happen.”

On Wednesday, Dungy said he made the comments shortly after he learned Sam was planning to be the focus of a reality TV series that chronicled his experiences.

“I think the actual first quotes were from an interview with a gentleman at the Tampa Tribune [columnist Ira Kaufman] right after the draft,” Dungy said on Patrick’s show, according to “We were talking about draft and distractions and it was when the Oprah Winfrey show was talking about doing a reality show on Michael Sam and that’s when the discussion came out about distractions as related to draft choices. ... We were talking about the show, and I think that was something people didn’t anticipate. And those things were going to happen and are going to happen, and that’s what I was discussing and what we’re talking about.”

Dungy made a comparison between the Sam situation and that of San Francisco’s Jonathan Martin, the former Miami Dolphins tackle who walked away from that team after being bullied by fellow linemen.

“I talked to some general managers,” he said, “and they said that Jonathan definitely has the talent to play in the league, but would they want the distraction of everybody’s following the story, and people asking their players over and over, ‘How are things are going?’, ‘What’s going on with Jonathan?’, ‘Who’s saying what to him?’ And because of the fact that they didn’t view him as a difference maker, they probably wouldn’t want the distractions. And I guess that’s my point in the whole thing. If we substitute Jonathan Martin for Michael Sam and have the same quotes and the same comments, nobody’s gonna replay those quotes two months and three months later, and try to say that there’s any more to it than what was actually said.”

Meanwhile, on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike,” Rams Coach Jeff Fisher disputed the notion that Sam was a distraction.

“Let’s define distraction,” Fisher said. “There were a couple extra cameras during the early OTAs, there may have been an extra camera yesterday as the rookies reported and went on the field for the first time, but no, it’s not.”


Calling Sam “a very passionate athlete” who is “very focused on trying to make this football team,” Fisher said the Rams want to give him “every opportunity” to make the roster.

Speaking to reporters at St. Louis’ training camp on Tuesday, Sam said he still respects Dungy and that everybody is entitled to their own opinion.

But Sam added of Dungy: “Thank God he wasn’t the St. Louis Rams coach.”