When defensive end Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, the man who hopes to become the first openly gay player in the NFL had to know he was going to take some flack.

The first public shot came from former NFL player and coach and current analyst Tony Dungy, who said in a story that appeared Sunday in the Tampa Tribune that he would not have drafted Sam because of the distractions that come with him.

Dungy was criticized after saying in the Tribune story, "I wouldn't have taken him. Not because I don't believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn't want to deal with all of it. It's not going to be totally smooth ... things will happen."

Dungy issued a statement Tuesday in an attempt to explain what he called an "honest answer" to a question.

Sam took the high road Tuesday after his first practice with the Rams, saying: "Thank God he wasn't a St. Louis Rams coach. But I have great respect for Tony Dungy. Like everyone in America, everyone is entitled to their own opinions."

On a more positive note, Sam is coming off a great moment at the ESPYs, winning the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage because of his choice to come out prior to the draft.

"It was a great award," he said. "I had a great time in L.A. with the Arthur Ashe Award, but that's over. I'm focusing on football now."

On the football side, Sam is hoping the hoopla dies down.

"My focus is on making this team," he said. "I don't really care what people come up and tell me. My job is to make this team, that's my number one priority."