Payton on Sam: All who help are welcome

As he often does, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton referenced his mentor Bill Parcells when describing why he believes Michael Sam is welcomed as the first openly gay player to enter the NFL.

The Saints will face Sam in his preseason debut Friday night when they play at the St. Louis Rams.

"I don't know that the players or the NFL contributed to how big the story was or how little the story was," Payton said when asked if he thinks the way the NFL and players around the league handled Sam's arrival will make it less of a big deal for future players.

"I think I said this back at the owners meeting and at the beginning of training camp with our players in the offseason, if you listen to Bill Parcells' Hall of Fame speech, I think it's very right on," Payton continued. "We're in a business, we're in a league, that's striving to win. And I think the locker room welcomes all those that can help them do that. And the history of our league is to have players from every state, regardless of color and creed, and so I think the same thing would apply.

"I think the uniqueness is that this was a first. And typically after the first it's probably not the same story with the second or third. But I don't know that. Now, once we get into the game, I think that, we use this term, they're 'faceless opponents.' We're blocking assignments. We're playing against a team last year that finished strong and a team that gave us a good butt-kicking in the regular season. So to [the reporter's question on Sam], certainly my expectation would be it would not be as big of a storyline the next time it occurs. And I think history has told us that with regards to other barriers in the sport."

Payton was then asked about the comments of another all-time great coach, Tony Dungy, who made headlines recently by saying he wouldn't have drafted Sam because of the potential distractions that would have come with it.

"It would have been based on our grade," Payton said. "I read partly what Tony said. Our decision strictly during the draft would be based on whether or not we felt like he could help us and whether or not we had the grade on the player. It didn't come up, but that's what we would really look at."