Bengals release troubled linebacker Odell Thurman
AP Sports Writer
Less than a month after the NFL reinstated Odell Thurman from his two-year suspension, the troubled linebacker is out of a job.
The Cincinnati Bengals staunchly supported Thurman during his suspension for violating the league's substance abuse and conduct policies. When he didn't show up for voluntary workouts that represented a chance to catch up, they decided they've had enough.
Thurman was waived on Monday, leaving his once-promising career at the crossroads again.
"Everything was fine two weeks ago," agent Safarrah Lawson said in a phone interview shortly after Thurman was released. "He left for a week to deal with the death of his grandmother, and he didn't make it back."
Now, his road back to the NFL will have to go through some other team.
Thurman failed to attend the team's three voluntary on-field workouts last week, when he was in Georgia following the death of his grandmother. The Bengals are installing a new defense, and wanted him to practice.
"I was just told by coach (Marvin) Lewis that he hadn't been in the building enough since his reinstatement, and they decided to go in a different direction," Lawson said.
In the past two months, the Bengals have finally cut ties with their most-punished players.
Receiver Chris Henry was released on April 3 after he was arrested for the fifth time. Henry had already served multiple suspensions from the NFL, including missing the first eight games of last season.
Now, one of his best friends is gone from the team, too.
Thurman, a second-round draft pick from Georgia, showed promise as a rookie in 2005, when he led the team in tackles and led all NFL rookies with five interceptions. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2006 season after failing to show up for a drug test.
Commissioner Roger Goodell extended the suspension to a full season when Thurman was arrested for drunken driving; Henry was a passenger in the vehicle, but wasn't charged. Goodell later extended Thurman's suspension through the 2007 season as well, setting conditions for his return.
Thurman met them and was on his way to full reinstatement when Goodell allowed him to start working out at Paul Brown Stadium in January. He was fully reinstated on April 21, and had been working out.
The Bengals finally gave up on him when he went back to Georgia for the funeral of his grandmother, who raised him, and didn't return for the voluntary workouts. Lawson said Thurman stayed in Georgia to take care of matters related to his grandmother.
The Bengals are installing a new defense under coordinator Mike Zimmer. They drafted Southern California linebacker Keith Rivers in the first round, and were looking at ways to shuffle their linebackers.
"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," Lewis said in a statement. "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."
Lewis declined to be interviewed.
While it's a long shot for Henry to sign with another team - his latest arrest could bring a full-season suspension if he gets back into the league - someone might give Thurman another chance at a minimum salary.
Lawson was surprised that the Bengals let him go.
"Odell traveled a long, hard road to get back, to get reinstated," Lawson said. "It's unfortunate that, ultimately, the death of his grandmother sidetracked him and made football not the No. 1 priority over the last month."
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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