Don't blame Bears for Hurd situation

615136.png

Don't blame Bears for Hurd situation

What if the reason the Bears didnt find out that Sam Hurd was a drug figure of note was becausehe wasnt?

The knives didnt take long to come out for GM Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith after the Hurd case popped on Thursday. Nothing was really known beyond information contained in the federal complaint detailing Hurd activities that generally commenced in late July, but critics were declaring that there were ample indicators that the Bears should have picked up on.

An interesting rush to judgment. If you dont like Angelo or Smith, especially after a three-game losing streak, it's easy to drill them, facts optional. (If you dont think there is agenda journalism, youre not playing close enough attention. But thats getting off point here).

I had a long chat on Friday with Mike Florio over at ProFootballTalk.coms PFT Live! Mike, an attorney himself, had some seriously interesting perspectives that start with some basic common sense, which is the first thing to go in hysteria reactions.

The fact that, in the 24 hours-plus since the story broke, no one is reporting anything about the scope or breadth of the operation suggests that there was no operation, Mike wrote.

Heres the overall:

If Hurd was an operation before July, when the Bears signed him, no one in the Bears, Cowboys, NFL or government appears to have known it.

If he wasnt an operation, what exactly were Angelo, Smith and the Bears supposed to have known?

Once Hurd became or was aspiring to operation status, since July, what were the Bears supposed to have done if in fact details of a covert operation were shared with them?

More on that in a bit.

Mike and my mutual conclusion, based on the complaint and other considerations, was that the real indications are that Hurd wasnt a drug kingpin at all, but that he wanted to become one and was taking his first big steps toward it (http:tinyurl.com77sahy2).

Which doesnt exonerate Hurd of even a shred of his alleged actions. It does, however, point in a different direction with respect to the Bears.

Some points of perspective

Big time? How big?

One thing that jumped out at us immediately was the clumsiness with which Hurd handled the situation of the 88,000 found in a vehicle registered to him and driven by an apparent associate, who said the money belonged to Hurd.

As I recounted to Mike, a longtime friend working for an airline told me of how a mule carrying money for a suspected drug operation very calmly denied that a briefcase containing 125,000 in cash even belonged to him. He just walked away from it when authorities opened it and questioned him.

If Hurd was Pablo Escobar, he walks away from the car and the money.

According to the complaint, Hurd was talking to undercover officers about the massive amounts of cocaine and marijuana that he would need. He wasnt already doing business at those levels; he had huge plans but he wasnt there yet, albeit because his supplier couldnt get him what he needed.

Hurd clearly was wanting to take a big step, based on the federal complaint. But every sign so far says he hadnt taken it by the time the Bears signed him. And if there were earlier steps, they hadnt tripped any bells in Texas or Illinois.

Telling the Bears?

The Feds appear to have been onto Hurd for some time, based on information in the complaint. The Bears have former FBI and police officers comprising most of their security staff, including Director of Security and Safety Services Tom Dillon, a former SWAT team member.

Dillon and NFL security people have contacts and sources. The only available information right now says that the law was tracking Hurd since July since he became a Bear, not before by more than a day or two.

Should the authorities have given the Bears information on a covertsting operation? Not if they want it to remain covert. If the Bears, whod already made their deal with Hurd, were tipped off, should they cut Hurd immediately? And alert him in the process that something big was up? A difficult spot to be in, even if officials had apprised the Bears of what was being done, which we clearly dont know at this point.

So, should the Bears

Hurd does not appear to have been enough of a drug player to have registered on federal or NFL radar in Dallas, where he was for the last five years. Five years.

Maybe the lockout and the fact that the Cowboys werent bringing him back moved Hurd to start thinking about life, such as this would have been, after football.

Whatever, there is nothing to indicate that Angelo was lying Friday when he said, there was nothing we found that would create a flag or alert or real concern in Sam Hurds case.

Best evidence is that Hurd was still not a big player when the Bears signed him. As far as him being even a fringe drug player, Dallas didnt know; the NFL didnt know; the Bears didnt know. If someone has more than just opinion that they did or should have, trot it out.

After they signed him, Hurd still wasnt a player. And whatever he was, as I mentioned before, the nature of the investigation sets this outside the parameters of a simple background character check.

Throw in a lockout that put more than a few limits on information flow for teams and players, and you have an interesting environment.

Mike made one more point: In the day-plus thats gone by since this first broke, nothing really notable has been added. One report was that a double-digit list of involved players was out there, but that was shot down subsequently.

Knocking Angelo, Smith or the Bears for not having a better backup quarterback is one thing. Bashing them for not knowing about a drug situation with what is known at this point something else altogether.

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

So Jordan Howard finished second in the NFL in rushing in his rookie season, despite just a dozen carries in the first three games. The fifth-round pick joined the man who beat him out for the rushing title, Ezekiel Elliott, as one of just five rookies in history to average five or more yards per carry on over 250 carries. And he set the Bears' rookie rushing record with his 1,313 yards while becoming just the fourth in franchise history to rush for that many yards in a season.

Sounds pretty hard to top, like we might be set up for the dreaded sophomore slump.

But...

"Things are a lot different this year because I know what to expect," Howard said during the team's minicamp two weeks ago. "I know all the plays and things like that. I’m not out there thinking, so I can just play free and fast.

"I definitely feel like a veteran 'cause I know what to expect and can help the young guys on the plays that they're not understanding. I’m just more comfortable and want to be a leader."

One of the other things we learned about Howard last year is he's low-key, a man of few words. So the Indiana product by way of UAB will make his points verbally when needed, but his actions will speak louder.

"He was a rookie a year ago and didn't even go in trying to be a leader, telling a five-year guy what was up," said head coach John Fox. "I think with time, and obviously with production like he had, I think it's a role he can fall in to. We're in a performance-based business and even in that locker room, what they do on Sundays gives them some credibility."

One of the concerns about Howard coming out of college was durability, but he answered the bell once he became the starter in week four against Detroit. And he probably wasn't used nearly as much as he should have. The good news about that is he was subject to less wear and tear, averaging just 18 carries per game from that Lions game on.

But besides taking more of a leadership role, Howard wanted to work on his speed without sacrificing the strong base that, paired with keen vision and work by the offensive line, allowed him to hit holes quickly and charge toward the second level of opposing defenses.

"Just improving on the little things – my conditioning, my weight, catching passes. And looking for ways to finish runs better," says Howard. "I feel like I’m in much better shape than I was at this time last year, a little more toned-up."

"It's just training," said Fox. "When you get to that it's more like track speed than football speed and I think he proved pretty worthy of that a year ago as a rookie. Y'know we all can improve on things, and that's the expectation. He's trained hard.

"This time of year last year he wasn’t even practicing," Fox remembered. "I like where we are, we’ve brought in more competition, and he’s better for it. He’s kind of gotten used to an NFL season, he’s come back ready to roll, but he still has work to do before we get to training camp."  

Oh, and the 22-year-old has a couple of other goals he didn't mind sharing, besides being a leader and getting a little faster.

"First off, make the playoffs. Be the leading rusher, and just help the team in any way I can and stay consistent."

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Brandon Marshall is no stranger to keeping it real.

The outspoken All-Pro receiver never minces his words and that continued over the weekend when he showed off his signed jersey collection.

Marshall took to Instagram and showed off "Santa" hanging all of the jerseys he's swapped with other NFL players:

Santa doing work.. . #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

The list includes a host of current and future Hall of Fame players: Champ Bailey, Cris Carter, John Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Lance Briggs, Adam Vinatieri, Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, Joe Thomas.

When almost all the framed jerseys were hung, Marshall took his followers through:

@nfl #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

Marshall compliments each player before, calling them "Hall of Famers" before getting to Jay Cutler at the end and going "Hall of..." multiple times.

Was that Marshall throwing shade at his former quarterback in both Denver and Chicago? If it was an innocent mistake or whatever, there's no way Marshall would've posted the Instagram video, right?

Marshall and Cutler were good friends from the beginning of their careers with the Broncos. So much so that the Bears traded a pair of third round draft picks in March 2012 to allow the two to continue their bromance by the lake:

But Marshall and Cutler have had a contentious relationship since.

Last summer, Marshall responded to a Tweet saying "of course" he misses Cutler. Last August, Marshall hopped on ESPN's First Take and said he thought Cutler could win the MVP Award in the 2016 NFL season.

At the same time, Marshall talked about his relationship with Cutler and said he was the only person on the Bears with the "huevos" to hold the enigmatic quarterback accountable. Marshall also said he was "sad" he didn't talk to Cutler much in the year leading up to August 2016.