St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long stood in a semi-circle of reporters after the team's organized team activity Friday, answering a question about LeBron James' Thursday night leg cramps in the NBA Finals.

Michael Sam's voice cut into Long's answer, ringing out over the practice fields from 30 yards away.

"Hey, Chris!" Sam shouted.

"Michael, how are you?" Long responded, then turned back to the group of reporters.

"Rookies, man."

Sam, who became the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL when the Rams took him in the seventh round May 10, is trying to prove himself to his new coaches and teammates, hoping to be one of the 53 players that makes the final roster at the end of preseason.

Sam's Feb. 9 announcement, when he came out to the world via an appearance on ESPN and a story in the New York Times, is behind him.

The drama surrounding whether he would be drafted, along with the controversial kiss he shared with his boyfriend on national television when the Rams picked him, is as well.

The proposed Oprah Winfrey Network documentary following his quest to make the Rams — not disclosed to teams before the draft but announced by the network May 14, then indefinitely postponed two days later — has fallen by the wayside.

Now he's just another rookie. Sam said it's a welcome development.

"It's been a long time coming," Sam said. "Last year, during this time, I was already playing football past spring practice. But you know what? It felt good to put my helmet on and get out there. Grind."

The 6-2, 261-pound Sam, a unanimous All-American during his senior season at Missouri last fall, worked behind Long at left defensive end while regular second-teamer William Hayes sat out with an injury.

Sam is trying to carve out a niche on a line that was already stacked before his arrival, one that helped the Rams finish third in the NFL with 53 sacks last year. Long and reigning NFC sack leader Robert Quinn are two of the most productive edge rushers in the league.

"I've got to step my game up to compete with this defensive line," Sam said. "I thought our defensive line at Mizzou was pretty tough. This is a whole new level. I've got to up my game."

Sam showed some growing pains during Friday's session, getting pinned inside on a couple of outside run plays and getting off balance trying to outflank second-year tackle Travis Bond during a red-zone pass rush.

Bond gave him a shove as he ran by. Sam slid to the turf.

"It's good playing with a vet that knows what they're doing," Sam said of playing with the team's established defensive linemen. "As a rookie, he's expecting you to know what you're doing. You don't want to mess up for that vet, because he's probably going to get on you."

He did show glimpses of the quickness and tenacity that helped him lead the Southeastern Conference in sacks last fall.

During an 11-on-11 drill, Sam brushed off a chip block from a tight end and closed in on the quarterback, forcing an incompletion and drawing a "Good job, Mike," from one of his teammates.

Sam also worked some with the punt protection and punt block special-teams units. He played special teams early in his Missouri career.