Updated: 4:30 p.m.
Linebacker Odell Thurman's journey from a two-year ban has taken another step closer to a return with Saturday's announcement that he has been cleared by the NFL to work out at Paul Brown Stadium.
Safarrah Lawson, one of Thurman's representatives, said Saturday that his client is complying with the league's substance abuse program in the hope he'll be reinstated in time for the May workouts.
"It's a positive step forward and we're happy he's been allowed to return to his teammates and coaches," Lawson said. "We feel this is a very productive environment for him."
Lawson said Thurman returned to the facility earlier this week with assistant strength coach Ray Oliver, the first time Thurman has been on site since head coach Marvin Lewis banished him after his Sept. 25, 2006 DUI. That violated terms of his original four-game suspension and resulted in a loss of the rest of the '06 season.
ThurmanThen NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stunned the Bengals and Thurman when he ruled the day training camp started that Thurman was also done for the '07 season.
The NFL has refused to say why and Lawson would only say Saturday that Thurman has not failed a drug or alcohol test in the two years of his suspension.
"He's doing what he has to do to comply with the program," Lawson said.
That means he is apparently meeting all his commitments beyond testing. Lawson said Thurman has split his time between Cincinnati and Monticello, Ga., home of his three children, and has worked out during his hiatus as well as working a construction job. Lawson puts Thurman's weight at 240 pounds, about five pounds heavier than his game weight.
"He's upbeat, he's positive," Lawson said. "He's excited to be back there again. He knows what's at stake."
Thurman, who turns 25 in July, has played only one season for the Bengals. But what a year it was. As the Bengals won the 2005 AFC North title, Thurman led the team with 148 tackles and four forced fumbles and rung up five interceptions to lead NFL rookies while tying the club's rookie record. The Bengals have yet to recover from his absence.
"Odell remains on the league's suspended list, and it remains to be seen whether he will be able to meet the conditions for reinstatement," Lewis said in a press release. "If he is reinstated, he will then have to earn the confidence of our management and coaching staff that he is ready to compete for a roster spot as an active member of our team. In the meantime, he is allowed to work out with our strength and conditioning and our training staffs."
Per team policy regarding players on suspension, he is not cleared to do interviews with news media, according to the press release.