The fact that Odell Thurman is no longer a member of the Cincinnati Bengals has much more to do with him missing a couple of OTA workouts last week. Head coach Marvin Lewis didn't elaborate much on the point after Wednesday's practice session but he did want it made clear that Thurman's situation was about the other players competing for linebacker spots and where Thurman stood on the roster totem pole.
The Bengals released Thurman on Monday, one month after the NFL had reinstated the former second-round draft choice from a two-year suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Thurman did not attend any of the team's first three days of on-field workouts last week. He was in Georgia attending the funeral of his grandmother on May 12 but did not return when the team expected him to the following day. Or the next two days for that matter.
The OTA workouts are voluntary but Thurman was on a short leash after missing the last two seasons and Lewis said he did not live up to the expectations the club had of him during this entire offseason. The Bengals have 11 linebackers on their roster, including first-round pick Keith Rivers.
"I kind of said in the statement we're going without him. He has not played football in two years. And we have people who will be better for our football team," said Lewis on Wednesday after practice.
Safarrah Lawson, a representative of Thurman's, told numerous media outlets, including JungleInsider.com, that he was surprised by the timing of the release. Lawson also told various reporters that Lewis had told him that Thurman "had not been in the building enough" to suit the team's liking.
On Wednesday Lewis denied saying that to Lawson, adding that the matter of the funeral for Thurman's grandmother was being overblown in context to his dismissal from the Bengals.
"His grandmother's been buried for quite a while. Don't get into his whole family structure," said Lewis. "We've been patient enough with Odell, and he's no longer here. No big deal."
Thurman is the second top-level draft choice the Bengals parted ways with in the past month. The team let go of wide receiver Chris Henry on April 21. Henry was taken in the third round, one round after Thurman, in the 2005 draft. With the pending retirement of first-round pick David Pollack due to a neck injury the Bengals are without their top three choices from the 2005 draft. Only center Eric Ghiaciuc (fourth round) and defensive end Jonathan Fanene (seventh round) remain on the team from the seven-member draft class of '05.
"Obviously when your first-round pick and your second-round pick and your third-round pick play, you're in a better situation as a team," said quarterback Carson Palmer. "And when you lose all three of them, it hurts for that year and for years to come.
"It's tough, it's tough. Odell was a well-liked guy on the team and had possibly more talent than anybody we've seen come through here. So it's tough to lose an athlete like that, a guy like that, and a draft pick. I mean, you only get so many second-round draft picks and when you only get one year out of them, it affects your team tremendously. It's just tough to lose the player that he was, and you really can't replace him."