Torrey Smith supports Ray Rice moving forward
Matt Birk spent time in locker rooms with hundreds of pro football players over a distinguished 15-year career. And he's certain some of them were gay.
As the NFL braces for the arrival of the league's first openly gay player in Missouri defensive end Michael Sam -- a likely late-round draft pick in May -- Birk downplayed the event, saying "the issue itself is not a big deal."
"It's being made into a big deal, but I've said many times, I've played with a lot of gay players, " Birk said on Wednesday on 105.7 The Fan's Norris and Davis Show. "It was ... maybe the worst-kept secret around. When you're on the team, and you're teammates with somebody, you spend so much time together, you can only hide stuff for so long."
Birk has been making the media rounds in advance of a book signing he'll be doing on Thursday night at Greetings & Readings in Hunt Valley.
Birk's take on the issue is compelling in that he has been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, but he thinks Sam can assimilate into the NFL with no problems as long as the team drafting him handles it properly.
"The issue becomes how much attention does it get from the media," Birk said. "There's obviously going to be other non-traditional football media outlets that are going to be paying attention now to whatever team he goes to.
"The way that he handles it and the team that drafts him handles it, if they try to keep the media frenzy to a minimum and just focus on football, there won't be a problem," he added. "It will only become a problem on a team if it sort of overtakes what's going on there on a daily basis, because trust me, guys are working and just want to focus on football. It's hard enough, and they just want to focus on their jobs."