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Michael Sam will make CFL debut in August

Newly acquired Montreal Alouettes' player Michael Sam smiles during a news conference in Montreal, Tuesday, May 26, 2015.
Newly acquired Montreal Alouettes' player Michael Sam smiles during a news conference in Montreal, Tuesday, May 26, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL – Michael Sam‘s CFL debut is getting closer, but Montreal Alouettes coach Tom Higgins won’t say exactly when it will be.

Some time in August, perhaps as early as Saturday in Calgary, the defensive end who gained fame as the first active pro football player who is openly gay will get into a game.

READ MORE: Montreal Alouettes welcome back Michael Sam

“He’s going to see the field in August, but we have five games in August, four on the road,” Higgins said Tuesday.

“He is getting so much closer to being able to play. He’s ready. He wants to go and I think it’s going to happen sooner than later.”

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Sam, who signed a two-year contract with Montreal, has been working on conditioning and getting to know the team and the Canadian game since he returned to the squad June 29 after missing part of training to attend to personal matters.

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It was felt he would need a month to get ready, and that time has passed.

If he doesn’t play Saturday, the Alouettes play Aug. 7 in Ottawa, then at home Aug. 13 against Edmonton before returning to the road for games at British Columbia and Hamilton.

READ MORE: Michael Sam signing with CFL historic moment, says Brian Burke

Higgins is anxious to see exactly what he has in the All American from the University of Missouri who was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft by St. Louis.

He didn’t crack the Rams lineup and was released after a spell on the Dallas practice roster before signing with Montreal.

“We’d like to see him play and we’d like to add some depth,” said Higgins.

“He could possibly help us on special teams and we’d like to get the answer everyone’s looking for — can he play? The only way we can answer that question is to give him an opportunity and put him on the field.”

Sam was not made available to the media for comment.

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READ MORE: St. Louis Rams cut Michael Sam, 1st openly gay player drafted in the NFL

The hard part is deciding who to take out to make room for him on a defence that has been Montreal’s strength through the first four regular season games. Veteran John Bowman and Gabriel Knapton are set as the starting rush ends.

It could be the Alouettes don’t want to spark a media fire by announcing when Sam will play.

The Texan has become a celebrity, including an appearance on Dancing With The Stars, since declaring himself gay ahead of the NFL draft.

Since the regular season opened, Sam has been put on the team’s 46-man roster the day before a game, only to be taken off when the roster was cut to 44 an hour before kickoff.

Until now, it was likely done because a player on the 46-man roster gets full game pay.

Now, it may mean he will wear his No. 94 jersey in a game.

Higgins doesn’t like to tip his hand early on what his roster will be.

“We’re not making a declaration because we don’t have to,” said Higgins.

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“I understand what the fascination is with all this. I respect that.”

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Sam did not practice with the starters on Tuesday, but neither was he with the third stringers as he was before the Alouettes had their bye week last week.

There was also movement at quarterback, as third stringer Andrew Manley was released along with defensive lineman Markell Carter and replaced by former Duke quarterback Anthony Boone and receiver B.J. Cunningham.

The Alouettes will dress three rookie pivots in starter Rakeem Cato, backup Brandon Bridge and Boone, while Jonathan Crompton and Tanner Marsh recover from injuries.

“We’re not anticipating using our third quarterback any time soon, knock on wood, but he’ll know how to quarterback sneak,” Higgins said of Boone.