National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Michael Sam ready to get back to football

ST. LOUIS (AP) The overflow crowd at Rams Park did not intimidate Michael Sam.

He seemed almost eager for the attention and scrutiny.

The first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team was confident and engaged Tuesday as he was formally introduced by the St. Louis Rams, handling questions and scrutiny with aplomb well beyond that of a typical seventh-round pick.

"I'm determined to be great," Sam said. "I understand that right now you guys want to make a big deal of it."

Sam put his arm around coach Jeff Fisher after sharing the podium with other late-round picks.

He joked that he'd never before heard the term "tweener" and even rose in his chair in mock intimidation of fellow Missouri draftee E.J. Gaines, a sixth-rounder who'd been asked what the SEC co-defensive player of the year was like as a teammate.

Sam, who came out to teammates and coaches before his senior season at Missouri, disagreed that his sexuality had been a secret.

"Apparently, everybody else makes a big deal out of it," Sam said. "But my teammates and my school didn't."

"It's OK to be who you are," he added. "Whether you're gay, straight, black or white, it's OK to be comfortable in your own skin."

After getting the go-ahead from owner Stan Kroenke and making the pick Saturday, Fisher called it a "second historic moment" for a franchise that signed running back Kenny Washington in 1946 as the NFL's first black player in the modern era.

Just as in his post-draft teleconference with St. Louis media that was sprinkled with salty language, Sam was feisty.

He's had a few months to get accustomed to the role of trailblazer instead of a silent star.

Sure, he's a role model. Right now he'd much rather be the Rams' description of "designated pass rusher."

"I will always support equality, period," Sam said. "But my job is to focus on football and help this team win a championship."

The appearance of perhaps the most famous seventh-round pick in NFL history attracted a massive amount of people.

A half-dozen TV trucks lined a crammed parking lot at Rams Park, an hour before the team's two first-round picks were due at the podium.

About 80 media members attended the news conferences.

Three days earlier when the Rams chose Sam with the No. 249 overall pick, the media contingent was in single digits.

"There's some energy here," general manager Les Snead said with a smile between rounds of interviews. "But I don't think this is a circus. This deserves attention, but we'll get it over and we'll get to work."

Sam shared the dais with five other players taken in the sixth and seventh rounds Saturday as the draft came to a close.

Snead joked that Tennessee State center Demetrius Rhaney, taken one pick after Sam at 250th overall, should get the first question after it got lost in the hubbub Saturday.

"I'm not sure anybody knows we drafted Demetrius," Snead said, adding that he hoped someday that pick 249 will someday be a footnote in sports history, and not such a big deal.

For Sam's subsequent solo session with reporters, he was flanked by Fisher and Snead, with Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff joining the group.

Everyone seemed eager to embrace Sam.

Second-round pick Lamarcus Joyner, a cornerback from Florida State, has never had an openly gay teammate. He applauded Sam's decision.

"He's a courageous young man," Joyner said. "He's a brave young man that we need in this organization."

The team's two first-round picks were first to the podium. Offensive tackle Greg Robinson, chosen second overall, sported a bow tie.

Both got their due. Both welcomed Sam to the family.

Robinson and Sam did a TV commercial together for a credit card company. Aaron Donald met Sam at ceremonies for the Lombardi and Nagurski awards.

"He's a cool guy," Donald said. "He's a football player, he works his butt off and that's what you want. You want playmakers around you and he's a playmaker.

Third-round pick Tre Mason, a running back from Auburn, said Sam was a "man of his own and he's entitled to do that."

"We're a team and he's also a family member to me now."

Sam will put on the pads later in the week when the team holds a three-day rookie orientation, much, if not all of it, closed to the media.

The Rams drafted Sam even though they didn't need help at defensive end, where they have a pair of first-round picks as starters.

Robert Quinn was second in the NFL with 19 sacks last season and Chris Long has been a standout since getting chosen second overall in 2008. But the Rams were well-stocked with picks, finishing with 11 selections, putting them in unique position to make history.

"Shortly before we got to our pick, Michael's value as a football player was off the charts," Fisher said. "He has an opportunity now to come in and compete to try to make our team."

Sam realizes it's up to him to make the most of this chance, and he bristles at the naysayers who contend he's in the NFL only because he came out.

"Will I make the cut?" he said, repeating a question. "You want to find out in a couple months, huh?"

Rangers cap comeback, top Penguins 2-1 in Game 7

PITTSBURGH (AP) Henrik Lundqvist set an NHL record with his fifth straight Game 7 victory, making 35 saves to lift the New York Rangers to a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night and earn a spot in the Eastern Conference finals.

Brian Boyle and Brad Richards scored for New York, who rallied from a 3-1 series deficit for the first time in the franchise's 88-year history.

The Rangers did it behind Lundqvist, who stopped 102 of the final 105 shots he faced over the final three games as New York advanced to the conference finals for the second time in three years.

The Rangers will play the winner of the Bruins-Canadiens series in the conference finals. That series is tied 3-3 and Game 7 is Wednesday night in Boston.

Jussi Jokinen scored his team-high seventh goal of the postseason for the Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury made 18 saves for the Penguins, who were outscored 10-3 over the final three games.

Wizards stay alive with 102-79 blowout at Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Marcin Gortat had 31 points and 16 rebounds, John Wall scored 27 points and the Washington Wizards rode a 39-rebound advantage to a 102-79 rout of Indiana on Tuesday night, cutting the Pacers' lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals to 3-2.

Washington can even the series at home on Thursday in Game 6.

It was a stunning turnaround for a team that had lost the last three. But with Gortat matching a career high in points and posting a playoff career high in rebounds, Washington held a 62-23 rebounding edge.

David West scored 17 points for Indiana.

Washington used a 15-6 run to take a 45-38 halftime lead, extended the margin to 24 after three and to as much as 30 in the fourth.

Washington denied the top-seeded Pacers a spot in the conference finals and improved to 4-2 on the road in this year's playoffs. They are just 1-3 at home.

Indiana's couldn't get enough stops because of its rebounding problems, and it didn't take long to see it play out.

Gortat and Wall combined for eight of the Wizards' first 10 points, and they were strong enough inside to fend off a brief Indiana scoring flurry to make it 25-19 after one.

Indiana charged back early in the second. Luis Scola scored the first five points, topping Indiana's entire bench total from Game 4, and took a 27-25 lead when Paul George knocked down a 3-pointer with 9:49 to go.

It was all Wizards after that.

Things got even worse for the Pacers in the third when they were outrebounded 18-4, and the Wizards made them pay for it. Washington's 6-0 run extended the lead to 11, a 9-2 spurt pushed the margin to 60-45, and when the Wizards closed the third on a 10-3 charge, it was 76-52.

After blowing a 19-point, second-half lead in Game 4, Washington didn't dare slow down. The Wizards took a 30-point lead early in the fourth and Indiana couldn't even make a serious run to cut into the deficit until coach Frank Vogel pulled his starters midway through the fourth.

Notes: Wall's 27 points were his most in the playoffs. ... Washington's 63 rebounds were a season high. ... Indiana, which came into the series with 12 straight home wins over Washington, has now lost two of its last three to the Wizards at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. ... George had 15 points and one rebound Tuesday after playing 46 minutes Sunday.

NBA owners meet again to discuss Sterling removal

NEW YORK (AP) NBA owners discussed Donald Sterling's CNN interview and the plans to terminate his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday in the third meeting of the advisory/finance committee.

A day after Commissioner Adam Silver repeated his desire to force Sterling to sell quickly, the committee met via conference call. League spokesman Mike Bass said owners reviewed the status of the charge for termination of the Clippers' ownership.

Silver or an owner has to formally charge Sterling in writing with violating Article 13 of the NBA's constitution. A hearing would then be held and require a three-fourths vote of the board of governors to force Sterling to sell the team he has owned since 1981.

Sterling criticized Magic Johnson in the interview that aired Monday, his first public comments since Silver banned him for life and fined him $2.5 million for making racist comments. Silver apologized to Johnson in a statement, adding that owners were working "as expeditiously as possible" on the process for removal.

Bass said the committee also discussed the media appearance of Shelly Sterling, who said she wants to keep her share of the franchise even if her estranged husband is forced to give up his. The NBA has said that wouldn't be possible.

The 10-member committee was also briefed on the hiring of Dick Parsons as the Clippers' interim CEO, and his meeting with team employees Monday.

Minnesota owner Glen Taylor chairs the committee that includes Miami's Micky Arison, the Lakers' Jeanie Buss, Oklahoma City's Clay Bennett, New York's James Dolan, Boston's Wyc Grousbeck, San Antonio's Peter Holt, Phoenix's Robert Sarver, Indiana's Herb Simon and Toronto's Larry Tanenbaum.

The committee plans to reconvene next week.

Bettman visits Seattle regarding arena status

SEATTLE (AP) NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made a visit to Seattle to meet with local elected leaders to get an update on the status of a possible new arena.

NHL spokesman Frank Brown confirmed Bettman's meeting on Tuesday after it was first reported by KING-TV. Brown said Bettman was on the West Coast for NHL playoff games and met with Seattle mayor Ed Murray.

Brown said the meeting was solely to get an update on the status of a new arena being proposed by investor Chris Hansen. Legislation approved by city and county officials call for an NBA team to be placed in Seattle first before an NHL team unless the memorandum of understanding on the project is rewritten.

In an interview last month, Hansen said his group does not have interest in being majority owners of an NHL team.

Seattle has been a rumored landing spot for an NHL expansion franchise after the near move of the Phoenix Coyotes last summer. Bettman said earlier in the NHL playoffs that Seattle needs to get its arena situation settled before the league will consider a franchise there.

Andre Johnson frustrated with Texans

HOUSTON (AP) Texans receiver Andre Johnson has always said he wanted to spend his entire career in Houston.

On Tuesday, the star questioned whether that was still the case. Speaking to reporters at a charity event, Johnson said: "I just kind of wonder sometimes: `Is this still the place for me?"'

Johnson's comments came after he was asked why he recently skipped a voluntary minicamp. He says that he has not asked for a trade, but also plans to skip upcoming organized team activities as well as Houston's mandatory minicamp.

The 32-year-old is Houston's longest-tenured player after joining the franchise in its second season. He talked about playing on just three winning teams in his 11-year career and says: "I think over time it can become very frustrating."

Pages