Following the Hurd

Carolina. 

Thursday, after the Cowboys' morning practice, Hurd stayed and ran routes for since-released quarterback Matt Baker for a half-hour. Asked if that session was for the benefit of himself or Baker, Hurd said, "Both." 

And that was the last on display of the shy Sam Hurd. If the Cowboys need a quality young receiver, and if confidence is a quality a good receiver has, Sam may be the man. 

Does Hurd feel more comfortable in his second year as a pro, more like he belongs? "I have more confidence and more knowledge, of course," he says, firing the words rapid-fire but not at all nervous. "But I knew I fit in. I was never worried about whether I could make it. I know I have heart and courage and all I needed was to be put on the field. My goals are to be a starter and then be as great a player as I can be." 

Not even shaken a little, Sam, when no one drafted you last year? "No. People just didn't see me at Northern Illinois. I know I'm a great receiver." 

Well, not yet. "Great" is one of those words we throw around way too easily. You have to have more than five career catches and at least one should be for a touchdown before you get into the "great" category. But if you don't see yourself as being great, you probably won't make it. 

The new members of the Cowboys' offensive coaching staff, ones not exposed to Hurd in his rookie year, like what they see. New coordinator Jason Garrett said after mini-camps he thought Hurd could play. Between practices Thursday, new receivers coach Ray Sherman concurred. 

"He has ability," observed Sherman, who knows a little about this as he enters his 20th NFL coaching season. Sherman has coordinated two teams' offenses. Listening to him is a worthwhile exercise. 

"Sam knows he has some things to work on," Sherman said. "But he has good ability and he's smart. He's an excellent special teams player, which is important. He just needs to fine tune some things, which takes reps. Doing it against air is one thing, but you must transfer that to a defender being on you."  

But his practiced eye sees Hurd as being able to contribute if one of his veterans were nicked up during the year? "Oh, sure," Sherman nods. "Sam is going to be a good player." 

Sam is certainly thinking along those lines. Asked about Owens and Glenn at their age, Hurd insists, "Age doesn't matter. Not when you have their ability and their knowledge." So you'll be ready when their time comes? "I'm not waiting for that. I just have to plan on taking one of their jobs." 

For the record, Sherman is equally high on the Cowboys' other second year college free agent receiver, Miles Austin. Last seen returning a kickoff for a touchdown in the playoff game in Seattle in January, Austin had farther to advance as a receiver, coming from little Monmouth (N.J.) College. But Sherman says he sees improvement in Austin not just from last year to this, "but from our last OTA to this camp." 

But he didn't get as big a cheer Tuesday night. For a few weeks at least, Sam Hurd is home, and he's planning on making the most of it.                               

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