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Jeff Fisher denies report that the Rams drafted Michael Sam to avoid 'Hard Knocks' in 2014

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A report that claimed the Rams had a handshake deal to draft the NFL's first openly gay player in exchange for not being featured on the NFL reality show in 2014.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher says reports claiming the Rams and the NFL worked out an arrangement to allow the team to avoid being on HBO's Hard Knocks if it drafted Michael Sam are "absurd and 100 percent incorrect."

"That in itself is absolutely absurd, it's 100 percent incorrect," Fisher said Thursday morning in a radio interview with ESPN's Mike & Mike. "We had three seventh-round picks. When we drafted Michael he was the best player on our board. And who in their right mind would think that you'd give up a draft choice to avoid doing something like that -- something that I think would benefit the organization.

"And you know, unfortunately, something like that is really unfair to Michael," Fisher added. "You know Michael works so hard. He was the best player on the board. He worked so hard, to try to make this look ... Obviously we had a good defensive line, but not really fair to Michael because of all the hard work he put in as well."

The initial report came from Howard Balzer of 590 The Fan in St. Louis after it was announced that the Rams will appear on this year's version of Hard Knocks. Balzer, citing multiple sources, said that the NFL grew concerned as the 2014 draft neared its conclusion that it might face scrutiny if Sam wasn't drafted. That's when, according to Balzer's report, the league and the Rams worked out a deal, and St. Louis used the 249th pick of the draft on the Mizzou defensive end.

Asked about the possibility of being on Hard Knocks after the draft that year, Fisher responded by saying "we are eligible, but I think it's highly unlikely they'd ask us to do it. I think this organization has a right to go through training camp with some normalcy."

Sam, who played in the CFL last year, said on Wednesday that the report didn't catch him off guard.

Sam's become increasingly outspoken since getting cut from the Dallas Cowboys in October 2014. Shortly after he failed to get signed after participating in the veteran combine last March, Sam said other gay players in the league aren't brave enough to come out.

"I am not the only gay person in the NFL," Sam said. "I'm just saying there is a lot of us. I respect the players that did reach out to me and had the courage to tell me that they were also gay, but they do not have the same courage as I do to come out before I even played a down in the NFL."

In a radio interview with Dan Patrick last September, Sam said he thinks being openly gay may have persuaded some teams to not sign him. He announced at the end of last summer he was stepping away from football.