Carl Nassib, NFL’s First Openly Gay Active Player, Returns to Buccaneers

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Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles appeared to confirm multiple reports that Tampa Bay signed Carl Nassib, a free agent who is the NFL’s first openly gay active player.

“We look forward to him coming here,” said Bowles said from Nassib to reporters Tuesday.

Nassib previously played for the Buccaneers in 2018 and 2019. He then signed to free agency with the Las Vegas Raiders and joined that organization in June 2021, when he made history by coming out.

“I’m quite a private person,” Nassib then said in a video he shared online, “so I hope you guys know I’m really not doing this to get attention. I just think that representation and visibility are so important.”

Several NFL players saluted him at the time, as did a number of league officials and advocates for LGBTQ issues. In a message to Nassib and Kumi Yokoyama, a National Women’s Soccer League player who came out as transgender, President Biden said wrote: “I am so proud of your courage. Thanks to you, countless children around the world are seeing themselves in a new light today.”

Another defensive end, Michael Sam, had charted a path by coming out before the 2014 NFL draw. He was then selected in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams but was released before the start of the season and never played a regular season snap in the NFL. Sam then became the first openly gay player in the Canadian Football League when he took the field for the Montreal Alouettes in August 2015.

Nassib said earlier this summer that he had some trepidation about taking the step to share his video last year.

“I stared at the phone for an hour just looking at it, trying to wind myself up,” the 29-year-old Pennsylvania native told Good Morning America correspondent Michael Strahan, a former NFL star, in July. . “The last thing I said was, ‘You know what — for the kids.’ And I pressed mail.”

Nassib added that after coming to his friends and family years earlier, he decided to make it public last year to “own the story and make sure I did it on my terms.”

By the time Nassib made those comments last month, he had been released by the Raiders after a two-year spell that coincided with a turbulent period for Las Vegas. Head coach Jon Gruden stepped down in October 2021 after revealing emails he had sent using racist, misogynistic and homophobic language.

After the Gruden scandal, Nassib was released from team activities to take a personal day.

“He just said he has a lot to process,” then-general manager Mike Mayock said of Nassib at the time. “A lot has happened in the past few days. And of course we support that.”

Gruden was replaced by Rich Bisaccia on an interim basis before Josh McDaniels was hired in January to be the team’s new head coach. At the same time, the Raiders brought on board a new general manager, Dave Ziegler, after firing Mayock earlier in the month.

Now, Nassib will reunite with General Manager Jason Licht, who has held that position for the Buccaneers since 2014, and Bowles, who was the team’s defensive coordinator for three years before replacing former head coach Bruce Arians in March.

After starting his NFL journey with the Cleveland Browns, with whom he spent two seasons, Nassib enjoyed some of his most productive moments with the Buccaneers. Of his 22 career sacks, 12.5 came in a Tampa Bay uniform, as did 25 of his 53 quarterback hits.

Bowles on Tuesday touted Nassib as a solidly on-going defender who can also be deployed in a variety of ways in the coach’s schedule.

“He’s a very good pass-rusher on the outside, and he can also play inside in some nickel situations,” Bowles told reporters. “He has a lot of versatility, he brings a lot of energy, he brings a lot of toughness and he understands the system. He was comfortable in it [in his previous stint].”

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