Posted: 11:10 p.m.
On Wednesday, Lewis finally broke his silence about the troubled middle linebacker who is on the verge of reinstatement after two one-year suspensions from the NFL and spoke about his journey back in glowing terms.
"If he can continue on this road, it's a big, big story," Lewis said. "It can be a positive. 'This is what you don't do. This is what you need to do.' "
The NFL, which denied Thurman's reinstatement bid last year after he missed 2006 for violations of the league's substance abuse policy, allowed him back into Paul Brown Stadium last month and the Bengals hope he's put back on the roster in time for the March 24 start of the offseason program.
"He's doing well; he's working extremely hard," Lewis said. "He's still got some hurdles to cross with league requirements and the opportunity to be reinstated and the opportunity to win a job. This has been very good for him. A good, positive step. It gives him something to hang his hat on, something to look forward to. It gives him the chance to take the steps to being accountable."
At age 22 during his rookie year, Thurman became an NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year finalist by leading the Bengals in tackles and all NFL rookies with five interceptions, as well as forcing four fumbles. Lewis said he thinks Thurman can still be a factor after a two-year hiatus.
"He (turns) 25 years old. He's still a very young guy," Lewis said. "If he's reinstated when our offseason program opens up, at least he'll get a conditioning baseline where most guys are probably at."
Lewis sounds like he has a softer heart for Thurman after watching him go through these excruciating last two years. Thurman's representatives have said he hasn't flunked a test, but he apparently had some compliance issues.
"It's all the same," Lewis said. "He's a good person. He meant nobody (any) harm. He's basically been his own worst enemy for not being compliant with some league things. It's not like he's done anything egregious. But his non-compliance, and we aren't privy to all that information, put him in an awkward situation.
"Unfortunately, early on when he had an opportunity to turn this around and not make it what it has turned out to be, it didn't register. And now it has."