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Bears, NFL in a world of Hurd

Chicago Bears wide receiver Sam Hurd participates pre-game warmups before game against Detroit Lions Sunday November 13 2011 Soldier Field.

Chicago Bears wide receiver Sam Hurd participates in pre-game warmups before the game against the Detroit Lions Sunday November 13, 2011 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 17, 2012 8:28AM

Bears coach Lovie Smith insisted the arrest of wide receiver Sam Hurd wouldn’t be a distraction as his team prepares for a must-win game Sunday at Soldier Field against the Seattle Seahawks.

“We know about it; the players know about it,” Smith said. “But beyond that, it was business as usual around here.

“We will not let this become a distraction for us.”

But during breaks, players were watching TV reports and checking their phones for updates. The story, despite Smith’s best efforts, was too massive to ignore.

Hurd, mostly a special-teams ace, was trending worldwide on Twitter for much of Thursday as news of his arrest was revealed and distributed. In Buffalo, Bills linebacker Kirk Morrison responded to a post about Hurd’s trending on Twitter by saying, “In our locker room too.”

Hurd was one of three former Dallas Cowboys signed by the Bears in late July. Smith said that, “as per the team’s protocol,” the Bears did “an extensive search to find out if there’s something out there” about players they’re interested in signing.

“There was nothing we knew about Sam,” Smith said.

In fact, although Hurd was arrested Wednesday night at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Rosemont, the Bears didn’t know of his whereabouts until Thursday morning, when he missed a team meeting.

“Didn’t know it was coming,” Smith said. “Total surprise.”

Captain Brian Urlacher described Hurd as a “good teammate,” noting he always said hello whenever they passed in the hallways at Halas Hall.

“He comes to work every day, works hard,” Urlacher said. “Outside of here, I don’t know him well.”

Receiver Roy Williams has played with Hurd the last four seasons, three of them in Dallas. He also was stunned.

So were people at Northern Illinois, where Hurd finished his career second in receiving yards (2,322) and third in receiving touchdowns (21). Former NIU coach Joe Novak said Hurd was suspended for one game for missing a study table.

“It was a maturity thing,” Novak said. “You had issues like that with a lot of kids.”

Hurd needed a “push and a prod,” in terms of academics. Otherwise, Novak said Hurd never had any other issues, especially involving criminal activity.

“Shocked. Disappointed that things even come to this point,” Novak said. “You never think of those kids getting involved in something like this.”

Former NIU teammate Garrett Wolfe said Hurd was a “great teammate and an even better friend.”

“That’s how I remember him,” Wolfe said.

Smith said he “never saw it coming,” reiterating Novak’s recollection of Hurd’s work ethic on the practice field.

“My dealings with Sam, as most of you would probably say, have all been good,” Smith said. “He’s a guy that showed up every day ready to go to work.”

Smith added that he didn’t believe any other Bears were involved.

Signed to a three-year, $5.1 million contract, Hurd had only eight catches for 109 yards in 12 games. But he was an asset on special teams, where he was a key in all four phases.

“He’s been very valuable,” special-teams coordinator Dave Toub said. “It’s going to take a little bit to replace him.”

Hurd was popular in Dallas, where he was the 2010 winner of the Ed Block Courage Award, given to a player on each team for his commitment to the principles of courage and sportsmanship, while serving as an inspiration to others. Hurd overcame offseason thumb surgery and was voted a special- teams captain.

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