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Hobson's Choice: Sad story

Q: So we wait two years for Odell Thurman to come back and they release him because he is not attending voluntary workouts? As a fan base we have a right to know the whole story. If they didn't want him, they could have released him and still helped him get sober and get his life back on track. Why keep silent about him for two years and tease us with this possibility? I am very frustrated with the coaches and owners on this one. I don't want to see another season that is washed out because of outside influences. We are already a circus because of Chad. I guess I just want some answers instead of team rhetoric.
--Tony, Batesville, IN

TONY: We're all looking for answers and since the team isn't saying anything to anybody about it, I don't think any team rhetoric exists on this except a pretty candid Marvin Lewis quote.

Plus, the team is limited by the league about what it can say about players who are or who have been in the substance abuse program. That's why the two-year silence. It's a policy protected by privacy guidelines. Which is why NFL commissioner Roger Goodell didn't have to explain his decision on why he didn't reinstate Thurman last year.

The place I start is with a guy that I have a lot of empathy and admiration for in Odell Thurman.'re frustrated with the coaches and owners?

How about the guy that put himself in position to get suspended by the NFL three times? (OK, twice and then a rejected reinstatement.)

And I'm with Odell on a lot of things.

I think the way the NFL slapped the Patriots on the wrist while giving Thurman what amounted to the death penalty shows a stunning lack of perspective. Who stained the NFL's precious shield? And who simply fell victim to what people in all walks of life fall victim to every day, like themselves?

For the most part, Goodell has been tough and wise for a sports commissioner. But on this one, I opt out. Which party, the Pats or Thurman, deserved to get docked two years pay? A team that circumvented the shield and then claimed ignorance? Or an admitted alcoholic who already paid the price of a year? Maybe they both deserved it. But the inequity is appalling.

But, that said, it's hard to believe that after investing so much energy and anticipation into his return, and standing by him when people (where are they now?) were screaming to get rid of him, that the team just gave up on him because he wasn't here last week.

You don't have to read between the lines of Lewis' statement: "We have not seen the right steps taken by him."

That indicates a lot more than last week. Now, what it is, who knows? But one of his representatives has been quoted as saying the Bengals told him that Thurman hadn't been in the building enough.

And he's been able to be in the building since late January, not just last week.

Let's face it. His situation just doesn't compare to anyone else's in the NFL. If there is anybody who has to go above and beyond to get back in the weight room and study the new playbook, it's Thurman after not playing for two years.

If he's not doing it, how long is too long? It would seem that any team that has a right to make a move like this one it is the Bengals because they did stand by him.

This is a heart-breaking story. The fact that Thurman overcame such crushing poverty and tragedy and got as far as he did is a wondrous story. It speaks to his massive heart and talent.

The kid had no shot. His mother dead at 10. Raised by a grandmother in charge of a house with about 20 people. All he had going for him was his talent.

Yeah, he sure could have used it better.

But I wonder how many of us could have.

And I'm pulling for him to still make it.

Q: Rivers, Jones, Jeanty. We will need 10 sacks between the LBs (backups as well) and approximately 20 from the D-line to say our defense has improved. If this is the case, our DBs won't get burned and actually maybe produce a Pro Bowler out of there.
--Stephen K., West Palm Beach, Fla.

STEPHEN: No question sacks are huge and the pass rush makes Pro Bowlers out of DBs as much as talent. True enough, the most Bengals' sacks in the Marvin era (37) coincided with his highest-rated defense (19).

But to say sacks will improve the defense is a bit too general. They had 35 sacks in '06 and still finished 30th, not to mention 8-8, just like with that No. 19 defense.

Plus, Jeanty and Jones may be coming off the field on many third-down situations, so the bulk of the backer sacks won't be coming from the starters.

But, let's see. On that '04 unit 23.5 sacks came from the line and eight from the linebackers. The question will be where they get them from this year's crop of backers. The starting outside backers have 0.0 NFL sacks, but Ahmad Brooks showed a penchant for blitzing from middle backer last year, and a lot of it is scheme.

In '04, Kevin Hardy led the backers with four sacks during a season he played a lot of "Joker," a player who some times rushes and some times drops on third down. Brooks, as well as defensive end Eric Henderson, have the athleticism to do some of that, but the stats will most likely be dictated by new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's playbook.

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