NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reinstated Thurman to the Cincinnati roster on April 21 after an absence that cost Thurman two seasons of play. Thurman opened the 2006 season on a four-game suspension for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, a suspension that was extended to a full season when he was arrested on a DUI charge on Sept. 25 of that year. Goodell extended the suspension a second season after determining last year Thurman had not lived up to the conditions set forth for reinstatement.
Head coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday, through a release from the team, that while Thurman has since proven to the league that he is worthy of reinstatement he won’t be doing it in Cincinnati.
“The NFL provided Odell the opportunity to earn his way back onto our team, but we have not seen the right steps taken by him,” said Lewis in the release. “With our offseason work in progress and new talent added at our linebacker position, we’ve determined it’s best to keep moving in a direction that does not include Odell.”
The Bengals selected outside linebacker Keith Rivers with the ninth overall pick in last month’s NFL Draft. They also added free agents Darryl Blackstock and Brandon Johnson from Arizona and are expecting Ahmad Brooks to return to the lineup healthy after a groin injury cost him all but five quarters of playing time last season.
This is the second time this offseason the Bengals have released a talented player from its 2005 draft class who also had more than his share of problems off of the field. Wide receiver Chris Henry was let go prior to this year’s draft.
Safarrah Lawson, an advisor to Thurman, confirmed to JungleInsider.com Monday morning that the team wasn’t happy with the amount of time Thurman was putting in at the club’s Paul Brown Stadium facilities. Thurman had been allowed to return to workouts at PBS prior to his reinstatement and had been seen working out with strength and conditioning coach Chip Morton during the team’s recent rookie minicamp.
Thurman was not in Cincinnati for the opening of the team’s on-field practice sessions (Organized Team Activities) last week due to the death of his grandmother. Thurman was raised by his grandmother, Betty Thurman, after his mother had been killed in a car accident when he was 10. His father passed away while Thurman was in college at Georgia.
“From what Marvin told me the kid wasn’t in the building enough,” said Lawson. “His grandmother passed away and he went home to take care of business. The team wanted him back for OTAs last Tuesday but he wasn’t able to be there. The team wasn’t happy about that.”
Lawson said that Thurman, 24, is in good shape and within the last two weeks ran a 40-yard dash in the 4.5-second range while working with a trainer in Atlanta. The Bengals listed Thurman as weighing 240 on their official offseason roster, just slightly heavier than the 235 pounds he was listed as during his rookie season.
Thurman led the team in tackles as a rookie with 148 stops, while adding five interceptions, nine pass breakups and four forced fumbles. He also drew the ire of the coaching staff, however, for having a penchant to overrun plays and not adhere to his defensive assignment, moves which led to big plays being allowed.
“He’ll find a position with another team,” said Lawson. “He’s got his personal problems behind him and things are looking good for him. He is a playmaker.”