Leading Off

Leading Off: Message is clear from top NFL quarterbacks, ‘if player can help us win, he’s welcome’

If a player can help a team win, he will be accepted.

That’s the message delivered from 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton when they were asked about Missouri defensive end Michael Sam joining their teams.

“I think when he steps into that locker room, everyone’s going to know he’s there to help us win games,” Kaepernick said on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Sunday. “That’s why you’re in the NFL: to help us win games. No one cares if you’re black, white, straight, gay, Christian, Jewish, whatever it may be. When you step on that field, you’re a member of, in my case, the 49ers. Or the Carolina Panthers. That’s your job. That’s your occupation.”

Added Newton: “The main focus with football players is we’re here in this organization for one reason and one reason only, and if you’re helping us attain that winning success, your personal life is your personal life.”

Sam, who said last week that he’s gay, likely will be converted into a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL and is expected to be a mid-round selection in May’s draft.

Kaepernick and Newton, who co-hosted the Cartoon Network’s “Hall of Game” awards Monday, are eligible for contract extensions this offseason, and both will become the highest-paid players on their teams when those deals are signed.

Kaepernick also was asked about allegations of bullying and psychological abuse among the Dolphins offensive linemen and whether that affected the 49ers’ locker room in 2013.

“Nothing on our team changed,” Kaepernick said. “I think we have a very tight-knit group in our locker room. We joke around. We have a good time. We’ll mess with each other here and there. But it’s all in good fun. At the end of the day, we know that when we step on the field, they’re on our side and they’re helping us win games.”

– Matthew Barrows


Today’s poll

Will Michael Sam’s announcement that he’s gay hurt him in the NFL draft?

• Yes, some teams don’t want the distraction.

• No, if he’s good enough, it doesn’t matter.

Vote above, or go to www.sacbee.com/sports

Monday’s results

What should happen to Richie Incognito and Jim Turner following the Ted Wells report ?

• Both banned from NFL: 43%

• Both allowed to resume career: 43%

• Incognito banned: 13%

• Turner banned: 1%

Total votes: 105

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