Commentary

Cowboys can't avoid Hurd situation

Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett should have addressed players to protect them, franchise

Updated: January 6, 2012, 11:07 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said he never addressed the team about Sam Hurd's alleged drug-kingpin exploits. Neither did coach Jason Garrett.

Jones said his firsthand knowledge of the NFL's thoroughness as it relates to sniffing out illicit activities among its players made him comfortable.

"I can't tell you how thorough we are," Jones said a few days after Hurd's arrest. "Very thorough. Extremely thorough. And I'm satisfied that we're extremely thorough."

[+] EnlargeHurd
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhEx-Bears and Cowboys receiver Sam Hurd was indicted Wednesday on two drug-dealing counts.

Whatever.

The league's crack security staff didn't have a whiff of Hurd's alleged activities. Common sense says the league could've missed others just as they missed Hurd.

This is not the time to be naive. Or to choose to ignore reality.

Just so you know, a federal grand jury in Dallas indicted Hurd on Wednesday with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and one count of possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine.

If convicted on the conspiracy count, Hurd faces a statutory sentence of no fewer than 10 years and up to life in prison and a $10 million fine. If convicted of the possession with intent to distribute count, Hurd faces a sentence of no fewer than five years and up to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine.

No one is suggesting that any members of the Dallas Cowboys' roster (current or former) played any role in Hurd's alleged quest to become a drug kingpin. But the smart approach for Jones and Garrett would've been to at least spend a couple of minutes telling their players what to do if federal authorities contact any of them.

The best advice, I've been told, is for players to say nothing and refer all questions to their attorneys, because even the tiniest lie can result in charges of obstruction of justice.

Then the player and the Cowboys would have a problem. Frankly, that's what must be the front office's top priority. Jones and Garrett should've armed all their players with the minimal information needed to protect themselves and the franchise.

It's not enough to pull aside a few players and ask what, if anything, they knew about Hurd's alleged extracurricular activities. Its doubtful Hurd morphed into an aspiring drug kingpin during the lockout, when he had nothing else to do.

It's far more likely that his career change began sometime during his time in Dallas.

The criminal complaint against Hurd describes him as regularly dealing large amounts of drugs in Chicago. Hurd allegedly attempted to purchase cocaine and marijuana from a supplier in North Texas, where the case was adjudicated.

The investigation into Hurd's attempt to buy large amounts of cocaine and marijuana began in July 2011, when the receiver was still playing for the Cowboys.

Don't let Garrett's cool demeanor fool you.

He was worried to death when this story first broke that some players on his team could be linked to Hurd, which is why he made multiple inquiries on a daily basis with the club's player development department for the first few days, seeking any kernel of new information.

That's an understandable reaction, considering Hurd spent five seasons as a role player with the Cowboys and he'd been with the Chicago Bears for only a few months.

Talk to enough of Hurd's former teammates and you get the sense that more than a couple thought he might be involved in the drug game, but figured he was selling only recreational amounts.

No one, it seems, had any idea about the alleged depth and scope of his alleged activities. And that's why Jones and Garrett should've made a blanket address to the team.

If Hurd was the least-likeliest person one would ever suspect of being indicted on federal drug charges, then there could obviously be others.

This wasn't the time for Jones and Garrett to ignore the elephant in the room. It was the time to confront it.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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