Rams trim roster; Sam among final cuts

ST. LOUIS — Rookie defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, was among the final cuts on Saturday as the Rams trimmed their roster to the mandated 53-player limit.

“I will tell you this, I was pulling for Mike,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “I really was and I don’t say that very often, but I was. Mike came in here and did everything we asked him to do. He got a chance to play a lot of snaps. He had the second-most snaps on the defensive line, to Ethan Westbrooks, and well over 120-130 snaps and was productive.”

The Rams’ final cuts were wide receiver Emory Blake, guard Travis Bond, defensive end Kourtnei Brown, safety Christian Bryant, defensive tackle Matt Conrath, safety Avery Cunningham, wide receiver Austin Franklin, quarterback Garrett Gilbert, defensive tackle Deantre Harlan, linebacker Aaron Hill, offensive tackle Sean Hooey, defensive back Greg Reid, linebacker Etienne Sabino, defensive Michael Sam, tight end Brad Smelley, linebacker Phillip Steward, offensive tackle Mitchell Van Dyk, wide receiver Justin Veltung, offensive lineman Brandon Washington, linebacker Lawrence Wilson and cornerback Darren Woodard.

St. Louis put wide receiver Stedman Bailey, who is suspended for the first four games for a violation of the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy, on the reserve/suspended list. He does not count against the 53-man roster until he is reinstated.

“These two days, yesterday and today, are very, very difficult,” Fisher said. “I’ve been doing it for many, many years and every year they are difficult decisions.”

The Rams kept two quarterbacks, five running backs, five wide receivers, five tight ends, nine offensive linemen, nine defensive linemen, five linebackers, 10 defensive backs and three specialists (kicker, punter and long-snapper) on the 53-player roster.

But that doesn’t mean they are done making roster moves.

“We got to 53, as everybody else has,” Fisher said. “I can’t say that we’re done. We’re no different than any other team in the league. We’re going to watch the wire and see if it’s at all possible for us to upgrade our football team over the next couple days.”

The Rams kept six of their 11 picks from the 2014 draft, though a seventh draft pick — seventh-round center Demetrius Rhaney — was put on the injured reserve list.

St. Louis cut Gilbert, a sixth-rounder (No. 214 overall), and then three of its four seventh rounders: Van Dyk, Bryant and Sam.

The Rams kept four undrafted rookies: tight end Alex Bayer, running back Trey Watts, defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks and cornerback Marcus Roberson.

It was Westbrooks, a former Division II defensive player of the year while at West Texas A&M, that took the ninth and final roster spot along the defensive line. He displayed versatility to play several spots on the d-line as well as plenty of production this preseason.

ProFootballFocus.com rated Westbrooks as the top 4-3 defensive end throughout this preseason. The website rated Westbrooks as the best pass-rushing defensive end and the second best against the run.

“He was very, very productive in the preseason for us and played all four spots,” Fisher said. “He’s a very, very talented young player that I think has a really good future.”

The Rams next step will be monitoring the waiver wire while also working to fill the 10-player practice squad. Some of the players released by the Rams will be back as practice-squad players.

Fisher didn’t talk about any specific players who they would try to bring back for the practice squad, but he did say that the team needed to add linebackers because they only have five, currently, on the 53-man roster.

Sam’s strong play this preseason would make him seem like one of the most likely candidates for the Rams’ practice squad, unless he is claimed on waivers.

The rookie from Mizzou was not able to meet with Fisher face to face to talk about the Rams’ decision — the coach said they would meet on Sunday instead — because Sam wanted to go to Columbia to watch the Tigers play on Saturday. But Sam took to Twitter on Saturday to thank the Rams for his opportunity with them.

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com

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