Defensive end/outside linebacker Michael Sam of Missouri runs onto the field before the Senior Bowl last month in Mobile, Ala. / G.M. Andrews/AP
The Green Bay Packers' draft-and-develop mantra is based on confidence in the personnel department to cultivate prospects who fit into the team's vision of a program and locker room.
As Packers coach Mike McCarthy added Monday, a person’s sexual orientation is not a part of that process.
While general manager Ted Thompson and his front office continue preparations for May's draft, McCarthy addressed Missouri defensive end Michael Sam's decision to come out as the NFL's first openly gay draft prospect.
While introducing the new additions to his coaching staff, McCarthy said the Packers would welcome anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, who could help the team improve on an 8-7-1 season that ended in a wild-card loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Sam, the co-SEC defensive player of the year, is projected as a mid- to late-round prospect.
"I think you definitely have to feel he's a courageous young man but my understanding is he's a talented young player," McCarthy said. "We always from Day 1 talked about our program, about our culture. Ted is going through the draft process right now and at the end of the day it comes down to good football players.
"Any player who can come here and be a good teammate and follow the rules of our program, which is one be respectful and produce on the football field, we have room for that guy."
Many national reports quoting anonymous NFL personnel executives saw a wide range of opinions. Some believe it won't affect Sam's draft stock, some suggest it might and one report from NFL Network even suggested it might help.
One Sports Illustrated report on Sunday said the Packers might be a good fit for Sam. At 6-foot-1, 260 pounds, Sam projects as the undersized defensive end the Packers often seek to switch to outside linebacker for defensive coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 defense, but he is a bit short.
Neither the NFL nor the Packers have had an active player who is openly gay, but former Green Bay running back Dave Kopay and defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo both came out after their NFL careers. Kopay was part of a group that spent time with Sam before Sunday's announcement.
Whatever happens over the next month, Packers linebackers coach Winston Moss and new quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt both reiterated the organization would welcome any players who could help the team, regardless of sexual orientation.
"That's very courageous on his part, there's no question," Van Pelt said. "If anybody can come in and help us win games and be successful – black, white, yellow, straight, gay – I don't think it matters. As long as you're a good person and you're respectful in the locker room to each other, then you can help us win on Sundays and are welcome."