|In this sketch, Sam Hurd makes his initial courtroom appearance in Chicago. (AP)|
Let's begin with the obvious. The allegations against Chicago wide receiver Sam Hurd are just that. None of this may be true. He may not be Nino Brown. The tales of thousands of pounds of marijuana and kilos of cocaine and drug trafficking and Mexican cell phones may be the imagination of some law enforcement officials who watched too many episodes of The Wire and Playmakers.
So he may be innocent.
OK, now that we're past that ...
Ho-ly crap. This is incredible.
If this is true -- if -- and even a fraction of the accusations against Hurd are accurate this is perhaps the third biggest scandal in recent NFL history. The first was the conviction of Rae Carruth, who is in prison for conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle, and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child, all relating to the shooting death of his pregnant girlfriend carrying his child. The second was Ray Lewis being accused of murder (murder charges later dropped) and lying to police.
This is third, unless all of these charges are false. But let's just say this. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Hurd, who faces 40 years in prison, hired high profile attorney David Kenner. Kenner, if you remember, defended Snoop Dogg in a murder case. That is some serious legal firepower. That's bringing a gun to a gunfight.
The potential repercussions from Hurd's arrest are far reaching. I can tell you from speaking to people around the NFL, including players, coaches, league and union officials, people are downright terrified of this story.
There is a reported list Hurd kept of NFL players he had as drug clients. Again, who knows if this is true? But the Department of Justice's Texas office has told reporters they cannot confirm or deny that such a list exists. Federal authorities sometimes take that "cannot confirm or deny approach" to extremes, but if there is no such list why not just say it doesn't exist?
You can imagine the potential damage that would happen to football if such a list actually existed. It would be devastating.
|More on Hurd arrest|
The question just about everyone is asking, is why? If these accusations are true, and Hurd is some sort of big-time drug dealer, why would a man with an NFL career, making a great deal of money, a man with a wife and kids, resort to this?
The answer might be found in two similar past cases.
Former Baltimore running back Jamal Lewis was accused of drug conspiracy and attempted cocaine possession charges. The more serious charges were dropped in a plea deal and in 2005 Lewis spent four months in prison. This was someone who won the rushing title in 2003. He was a high profile runner, a wealthy man, powerful -- yet was still arrogant enough to think he could get away with setting up cocaine deals.
Nate Newton created an extensive marijuana selling ring that he claimed led to him earning some $75,000 a transaction. He was caught and spent 2 ½ years in prison.
He gave this infamous quote in 2005: "I've always been competitive. I've always been in sports. I couldn't see myself not being the biggest dope man."
The common theme in those two cases -- as well as others like Carruth -- is that the sense of confidence and power the NFL gives, in extreme cases, works against players. An NFL player is bigger, stronger and faster than most other human beings. That superiority, sometimes combined with football's insular nature, can cause (again in extreme cases) some players to believe they're entitled to do whatever the hell they want.
Kill a pregnant woman, lie to cops, haul hundreds of pounds of marijuana in a car trunk to sell, gamble on games, or run a drug ring. The power that made them great players can also make them feel invincible even when it comes to the laws of the land.
We don't know if this is the case with Hurd, but if the accusations against him are correct then he'd certainly fit this pattern. How an NFL player, even a lower-level one like Hurd, doesn't think he'd get caught doing something like this, well, that's the epitome of arrogance.
I know Hurd. Have met him several times and this is one of those typical deals where you speak to someone and never think that one day you'd be reading about them accused of being the mayor of New Jack City. In 2010, he was named the Cowboys' Ed Block Courage award winner. The award is voted on by teammates and given to "role models of inspiration, sportsmanship and courage."
No, we don't know if Hurd did these things, but if he did, it might be another example of a player who believed his NFL status gave him unbreakable armor.
Meanwhile, the entire NFL holds its breath ...