Michael Sam will face a daunting set of challenges that most rookies dont have to deal with when making the already formidable jump from college to the NFL. [url=http://www.authoritybroncosshop.com/royce-freeman-broncos-jersey-c-71/]Royce Freeman Broncos Jersey[/url] . The SECs co-defensive player of the year is about to find out if Americas most popular sport, rooted in machismo and entrenched in locker room hijinks, is ready for its first openly gay player. First, hell have to find a team willing to put up with the media circus that will surround him. Then, hell have to find acceptance like he did at Missouri, where his sexuality was a non-issue during a 12-2 season. Only now, hell face opponents and their fans who know hes gay. He might even face cheap shots and teammates hesitant to shower alongside him or undress in his presence. While several teams and coaches said Monday that Sams sexual orientation wouldnt affect his draft status, former NFL punter Chris Kluwe, who contends his championing of gay rights led to his release from the Minnesota Vikings last year, wasnt so sure. "The majority of players will be supportive of Michael Sam or just wont care," Kluwe said. "Youll have isolated guys here and there who might try to make a fuss about it, but players by and large are very much, Hey, were here to do a job, were here to go out and play football. "In terms of the coaching/front office side, I think theres where issues are going to arise because they are going to look at this like, Hey, is this going to cause a distraction for the team? And by distraction, they mean, Were not really OK with having a gay player on our team, we cant come out and say that, so were going to use the word distraction," Kluwe added. "And unfortunately, those are the people who determine if youre employed or not." John Elway has a unique perspective running the Broncos front office now after a Hall of Fame playing career, and he said Monday hed have no problem drafting Sam. "We will evaluate Michael just like any other draft prospect: on the basis of his ability, character and NFL potential. His announcement will have no effect on how we see him as a football player," Elway said. "Having spent 16 years in an NFL locker room, the bottom line is that its about treating others with respect and earning that respect. By all indications, it appears Michael has done just that throughout his football career." Several coaches said if a player is accountable and a winner, being gay is a non-issue. "If anybody can come in and help us win games and be successful -- black, white, yellow, straight, gay -- I dont think it matters," said new Green Bay quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt. Before Sam revealed his sexual orientation, the pass-rusher was projected as a mid-round draft pick. Kluwe said reports that Sams draft stock could drop because he revealed his sexual orientation "basically could have been lifted from any American sporting paper in the 1940s when Jackie Robinson was about to enter Major League Baseball. Its like weve been here before. Why do we have to keep doing the same thing?" Sam will likely face even more scrutiny from opponents fans than Chargers linebacker Manti Teo did after getting fooled by a hoax involving a fake girlfriend while at Notre Dame. What will help Sam is landing on a team with strong veteran leadership, something that was lacking in Miami, where tackle Jonathan Martin walked away at midseason, alleging guard Richie Incognito led daily harassment with racial, aggressive and sexually charged comments. Incognito was suspended for the final eight games and Martins career was thrown in limbo. Former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said Sams performance on the field and as a teammate should quickly overshadow any stereotypes about sexual orientation. "I dont think he faces any challenges as a player. I dont think he faces a lot of challenges as a person," Cooley said. "I think once he establishes himself as the kind of teammate hes going to be, I think everybody will accept it fine." Eagles All-Pro guard Evan Mathis said Sam will face obstacles no matter what. "NFL players shouldnt judge Michael Sam based on his sexuality but some guys will. MLB players shouldnt have judged Jackie Robinson based on his skin colour but some did," Mathis said. "Whether or not the NFL is ready for it, it needs to happen. There are still people on this Earth who lived through the prohibition of alcohol and the Civil Rights movement. They can look back and reflect on how primitive those times were. "Current generations will look back at marijuana prohibition and gays having to fight for equal rights and think how primitive those times were." [url=http://www.authoritybroncosshop.com/royce-freeman-broncos-jersey-c-71/]Royce Freeman Jersey[/url] .The Toronto Raptors guard, who will represent the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Game in New Orleans on Sunday, says he doesnt complain in the face of adversity "because I know this little girl is just happy for anything. [url=http://www.authoritybroncosshop.com/daesean-hamilton-broncos-jersey-c-80/]DaeSean Hamilton Jersey[/url] . In this weeks Leaf Report podcast, James Mirtle and Jonas Siegel debate whether Toronto can continue their shootout dominance and discuss what Dave Nonis game plan should be heading into the trade deadline. [url=http://www.authoritybroncosshop.com/customized-c-39/]http://www.authoritybroncosshop.com/customized-c-39/[/url] .C. -- Kevin Harvick won his first career pole at Darlington Raceway on Friday as he looks to chase his first Southern 500.CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Panthers say theyd like to find a replacement for longtime No. 1 wide receiver Steve Smith in this years NFL draft. The big question is when theyll do it. The Panthers have the 28th overall pick, but the NFC South champions have a variety of needs after getting hit hard in free agency, and could go in a number of directions with their first-round choice. General manager Dave Gettleman said recently that wide receiver, offensive tackle and cornerback are among the teams top needs, but qualified that statement by adding he wont got out of his way to land one. "When you reach for a position of need youre in trouble," he said. Gettleman said he has some reservations about drafting a receiver in the first round because it often takes them longer to adjust to the NFL game than those who play other positions. "History tells you that its a very difficult position to assimilate into (the NFL), especially with the current game being played at the college level," Gettleman said. Gettleman called it a "wide receiver heavy" draft that includes several players whove put up big numbers. He said the trick is finding guys who can easily make the transition to the next level. "Ill look at a guy and hes caught 90 balls ... but of those 45 were flash screens," Gettleman said. "The other 45 he caught, he ran to three spots. So, do they understand coverage? Theyre going to have to learn the whole route tree. How long is it going to take them to assimilate? Its an issue. Its a problem." Smith was released in a salary cap move earlier this off-season. Replacing his toughness and production wont be easy. He caught 836 passes for 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns for the Panthers in 13 seasons. However, after averaging 76 receptions for 1,284 yards receiving and 5.5 touchdowns in his first two seasons playing with quarterback Cam Newton, Smiths numbers fell off in 2013. He caught 64 passes for 745 yards and four TDs. The Panthers signed free agents Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood, but none is expected to become the next No. 1 receiver in Carolina. Five things to watch from the Panthhers in the draft: ON THE FRONT BURNER: Jordan Gross retired this off-season, leaving a huge hole at left tackle — one the Panthers potentially could address in Round 1. [url=http://www.authoritybroncosshop.com/josey-jewell-broncos-jersey-c-79/]Josey Jewell Broncos Jersey[/url]. . Gettleman said there are some tackles in the draft dont have "left tackle feet," but said that doesnt necessarily matter. "There are only so many elite tackles," he said. "There are plenty of guys playing left tackle in this league that dont have classic left tackle feet." Finding a left tackle might take on added importance given Newton is coming off ankle surgery this off-season. FIRST ROUND SUCCESS: The Panthers have had tremendous success with their first-round picks the last three seasons. They grabbed defensive tackle Star Lotulelei from Utah at No. 14 in 2013, and he looks like hes going to be around the league for quite a while. They drafted linebacker Luke Kuechly at No. 11 in 2012 and quarterback Cam Newton first overall the year before that. Kuechly was the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, while Newton was the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011. BLUE GOOSE: Last year, Gettleman said the Panthers needed to add some "hog mollies," or big linemen. This year, the Boston native switched gears, saying if there is a "blue goose" pass rusher available at No. 28 he wouldnt pass on him. Tough to know what a blue-winged bird native to Ethiopia has to do with building a football team, though. CORNERBACK ON RADAR: The Panthers lost starting cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to Minnesota in free agency. While they signed free agent Antoine Cason, dont rule out cornerback as an option with one of the teams top three picks. The Panthers have one pick in each of the seven rounds. DONT BE REACHING: The Panthers are determined not to reach for picks at positions of need. They followed that plan last year and took defensive tackle Kawaan Short from Purdue in the second round — even after selecting Lotulelei in the first. "Last year, K.K. 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