Rick Spielman backs Mike Priefer, would welcome openly gay Michael Sam
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Vikings general manager Rick Spielman backs special teams coordinator Mike Priefer.
Spielman made his first public comments on Priefer since the Vikings announced Mike Zimmer's coaching staff. Priefer was listed as the team's special teams coordinator and is under contract for 2014, despite an ongoing investigation into allegations made by former punter Chris Kluwe.
Kluwe accused Priefer of making hateful anti-gay remarks during Kluwe's Vikings tenure in a Jan. 2 story published on Deadspin. Priefer released a statement saying that he vehemently denied the accusations.
The team has hired outside counsel to review the matter.
"I can't make any comments on the investigation, but I can tell you that Mike Priefer is a very good football coach, what I've said in the past," Spielman told a gather of reporters Friday. "Very good person and very good family man. Other than that, we can't comment beyond until the investigation comes out."
The Priefer-Kluwe spat comes at an interesting time the NFL, as former Missouri standout Michael Sam is expected to become the first publicly openly gay NFL player after the draft in May.
Sam's announcement Feb. 9 that he is gay is seen as a significant step in the NFL, while some question whether the NFL's culture will accept a gay player.
Several publications cited unnamed general managers who wondered if Sam's sexual orientation would be a problem in an NFL locker room. That will not be the case in the Vikings' locker room, Spielman said.
"I'm not going to speak for other NFL locker rooms. I don't know that. I know that we will make sure that our culture is created where he could fit in to our locker room," Spielman said.
"I think a team is wrong if it's going to affect the draft status, because I don't care if a guy has three heads, black, white, purple, green. If we got a guy that can help you win football games, it shouldn't matter and it doesn't here in this building as long as we judge it on football and can they help us win football games or not. I don't care about anything else and a lot of that comes from my family's situation because I've dealt with a lot of things. Some I'm very sensitive to that you judge people off their ability and that's it."
"Any player that comes in regardless of religion, race, sexual orientation and all of that stuff, it's going to be an environment where we're going to make sure they can thrive as a football player."
A reporter asked Spielman if Sam's situation -- the frequent non-football questions that grab headlines - is comparable in any way to former Notre Dame standout Manti Te'o.
"I didn't pay much attention to it. My focus has been what kind of character they are, what kind of person they are and what kind of football player they are. That's where our whole focus is, and we grade them purely off of that."