Well-liked Sam Hurd found unlikely way to stand out with Bears
BY SEAN JENSEN email@example.com December 17, 2011 1:36AM
BOURBONNAIS, IL - JULY 30: Free-agent signees of the Chicago Bears Sam Hurd #81 (L) and Roy Williams #11 watch during a summer training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University on July 30, 2011 in Bourbonnais, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Updated: January 19, 2012 10:50AM
On Wednesday, in the rear corner of the Bears’ locker room, as usual, were receivers Roy Williams and Sam Hurd.
While most of the other players avoid the locker room when reporters are granted access, Williams and Hurd, who played together in Dallas, had been a constant presence, interacting with one another and engaging the occasional reporter in some banter.
I asked Hurd if he had watched the latest Cowboys collapse. Kicker Dan Bailey has missed last-second field goals in consecutive losses.
‘‘Nah, I don’t watch much football,’’ Hurd said. ‘‘I just lay low.’’
Hours later, at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Rosemont, Hurd was arrested after allegedly agreeing to buy a kilogram of cocaine from an undercover federal agent and planning to establish a massive drug network in the Chicago area.
The former Northern Illinois star, who was largely anonymous in six NFL seasons, is now a household name.
Until Thursday, Hurd was the least polarizing of the three former Cowboys the Bears signed in late July. Williams has been criticized for dropped passes, most notably one on the goal line in the fourth quarter of the Bears’ 10-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago. In that same game, former Cowboys running back Marion Barber negated an easy touchdown when he wasn’t lined up on the line of scrimmage. Then, in a 13-10 loss to the Denver Broncos last Sunday, Barber failed to stay inbounds late in the fourth quarter, providing the Broncos an additional 30-plus seconds to move down the field and set up a game-tying field goal. He later lost a fumble in overtime.
Team-first, no complaining
Hurd, though, endeared himself for his willingness to put his ego aside. He desired to play on offense but never complained about his snaps there or his many roles on special teams.
After the Bears’ last victory, against the San Diego Chargers nearly a month ago, Hurd explained why the receivers were so excited about Johnny Knox’s big game. The unit, despite being under scrutiny, appeared united.
‘‘What you think should cause problems and issues, we just say, ‘Hey, that makes us stronger as a family,’ ” Hurd said. ‘‘Ever since I got here, I haven’t seen anybody be selfish.’’
He pointed to training camp, when running back Matt Forte reported even though he was frustrated about his contract status.
‘‘That shows me what kind of team this is,’’ Hurd said. ‘‘In many places, maybe there would be issues. But this is a grown-up team, and this is a man’s team. One thing I’ll tell you, everybody here is unselfish.’’
Ultimately, though, Hurd disappointed his teammates, whether the federal charges stick or not.
Williams admitted Friday that he’s upset at Hurd for that reason.
‘‘But I’ve got mixed feelings, with so many emotions going through you, when something happens to someone who is close to you,” Williams said. ‘‘But whatever happens, I’m there for him, and I’ll continue to be there for him.
‘‘He’s a good dude. I don’t see nothing wrong with him and don’t look at him differently. He’s still my boy.’’
But Williams reiterated there are consequences for one’s actions.
Williams: ‘We got to keep going’
As for the Bears, Williams said they won’t fall prey to this potential distraction.
‘‘Sam is a big part of our special teams, so that’s where it hurts us at, right there,’’ he said. ‘‘But as far as anything else, he’s not going to make me run the wrong route or drop a ball here.
‘‘It’s just, we got to keep going. Every team goes through adversity in different forms. But this is one form you don’t wish on nobody.’’
Williams knew Hurd better than anyone else in the Bears’ locker room, but other players came to admire Hurd, who was friendly and funny.
‘‘He’s like a brother to everyone here,’’ receiver Earl Bennett said. ‘‘For something like this to happen to him is tough.’’
Added Knox, “We’re just going to keep praying for him, and we’ve got to move on.’’