- Associated Press - Saturday, August 9, 2014

ST. LOUIS — Michael Sam got an extended look at defensive end in the St. Louis Rams’ preseason opener.

Coach Jeff Fisher said that’s where the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL will have his best shot at making the team.

“Michael is a defensive end, OK? He plays defensive end with his hand down,” Fisher said after a 26-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Friday night.

“There’s a lot of talk with Mike being a ‘tweener,’ maybe a standup pass rusher. It’s rare to find a defensive end playing special teams in the NFL.”

Sam said his introduction to the NFL was “awesome,” recalling thinking during the national anthem, “Wow, this is the big stage.”

But not too big.

Sam, who was credited with one tackle and one quarterback hit, emerged with confidence.

“You know, I can play in this league,” Sam said. “I can play in this league.”

Sam was a seventh-round draft pick and he’s attempting to launch his pro career a two-hour drive from where he starred on a 12-win Missouri team that played in the SEC title game last season.

Sam shed weight to 257 pounds coming into training camp so he’d be a viable special teams option on a team that already has a strong pass rush.

Mark Ingram had eight carries for 83 yards and a 22-yard touchdown in the first half.

“We wanted to come out here and start fast,” Ingram said. “The line was just physical up front, got a lot of movement off the ball and created a lot of seams and holes for us to run through.”

Luke McCown started in place of Brees, limited by a left oblique injury for a week. First-round pick Brandin Cooks caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from third-stringer Ryan Griffin in the third quarter and had five receptions for 55 yards.

“I know what I’m coming into,” Cooks said. “I’m coming in with a great group of receivers. I’ve got to come in and find my spot.”

Coach Sean Payton was non-committal about Brees’ chances of playing next Friday at home against the Titans.

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