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Thurman: What next?

Updated: 6:25 a.m.



GEORGETOWN, Ky. - No word if Odell Thurman is going to appeal commissioner Roger Goodell's stunning denial of his reinstatement, but there were signs he could as the news sunk in late Thursday night.

Although Safarrah Lawson, one of Thurman's representatives who has been saying that he met the requirements of the league's substance abuse policy, had no comment Thursday and it's believed that some in Thurman's camp are huddling with lawyers.

Since Goodell is the man who hears the appeals of his sanctions, there isn't a lot of hope. But he has reduced some of his suspensions and some of Thurman's teammates wondered here on the first day of training camp if it could get reduced since he sat out all last season.

"I thought he was going to be reinstated, and if that's the direction the league is going to take, that's pretty hardcore," said defensive end Justin Smith.

And where can he play now? Since he's under contract to the Bengals, they would have to give him permission to play in, say, Canada, but that season is well underway.

Although the news that Thurman can't apply for reinstatement until after the '07 season sent shock waves through the camp, it wasn't a devastating body blow because, as quarterback Carson Palmer said, "It's not like he was with us last year. We played without him."

The mood was one of concern for Thurman's career and life and not so much the state of the defense. Former Bengals tackle John Jackson, now a TV reporter in Cincinnati and Dayton, said Thurman has only a 50-50 chance to make it back if he misses two straight seasons.

"It was 60-40 before that," he said.

Defensive end Bryan Robinson thinks the suspension takes Thurman away from what he needs most. Earlier this year Thurman admitted in court he was an alcoholic after a DUI kicked in the year suspension as the third violation of the substance abuse policy.

"I love the kid," Robinson said. "I think he needs to be around us. We're his teammates. I think we'll do him a lot better than anybody else at this point. It's just being around us. I don't know the facts. I don't want to throw anything out there."

There is confusion because, according to Lawson's previous comments, there had been no signal given by the NFL during the final stages of Thurman's stint in the program that he was courting a refusal of his application. He had gone to New York to meet with doctors the Friday before he was eligible to return on July 11.

During the spring, Thurman had been allegedly involved in an assault at a party in his hometown of Monticello, Ga., but police weren't called at the time and no charges were filed. Two men filed complaints against him, alleging that he hit and kicked them, complaints later withdrawn.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello cited the privacy provisions of the substance abuse policy when he gave a no comment on what reasons Goodell had for denying Thurman.



Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was one of several players who met with Goodell during his conduct summit in February that preceded his new player conduct policy and such harsh measurements as an eight-game suspension for Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry.

"It's like the commissioner's getting mean," Houshmandzadeh said upon check-in. "It would have to be something to the effect of where Odell did something nobody knows. It has to be that he didn't meet all the requirements. It wouldn't just be because 'We're not going to reinstate him.' I can't see why he wouldn't get reinstated if he did everything he was supposed to do."

Houshmandzadeh doesn't think the decision is related to the mushroom cloud surrounding Michael Vick, "because this all happened before."

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has been insisting that he wasn't counting on Thurman and didn't list him on the team's first depth chart of the season.

Lewis, appearing at camp in a black and red Reds cap, said, "I'm disappointed for Odell. It's part of life."

As they pulled into camp and began unpacking their belongings, many of his teammates expressed shock and dismay.

"That's extremely unfortunate and it's going to hurt our team a lot," said left tackle Levi Jones. "I know his attributes and all the things that he has to go along with him and it's something definitely we could have used."

When Robinson and Smith heard the news, they looked at each other and Smith said, "You've got to be kidding me."

There had been some hope that if Thurman could come near his 2005 form that put him in the NFL Rookie of the Year mix that he would rejuvenate the defense.

The idea had been that the Bengals could put Thurman and his five interceptions and four forced fumbles at weak-side linebacker after moving him out of the middle in favor of Ahmad Brooks.

Now that spot clearly belongs to Landon Johnson and Ed Hartwell.

"It's a little discouraging, but Odell wasn't in minicamp or the OTAs and we've grown as a team with him (not ) being here," Robinson said. "We'd love to have him here, but at the same time we have a championship we're trying to win . It's hard to lose that talent. We'd love to have him.

"On the opposite end we have guys here that we also trust," he said. "I always felt Odell was a freak of nature. He may be the type of guy that might spend five years out and come back...We just want him to be safe. He's a brother, he's a son, he's a friend and we love him."



Jones also has had a brush with Goodell's discipline. He was the victim in Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter's assault charge in a Las Vegas casino back in March. Goodell opted not to suspend Porter, but fined him three game checks at about $150,000.

"He's going to be tough on guys. In the Joey situation he didn't follow what he's been doing before with all the suspensions," Jones said. "But 150 grand is a lot of money for something as stupid as that.

"It's always good when you can punish that particular person without punishing the team and that's what he did in that situation. I hope he would have been lenient with some of our Bengals players if they had been in that situation."

Defensive tackle John Thornton heard about the move through an e-mail and said he felt badly for Thurman.

"From what we heard he was doing everything he was supposed to do and to miss another year is tough," Thornton said. "But obviously the commissioner has his reasons and you have to respect them and maybe there's something we don't know. "

Thornton said the Bengals weren't relying on Thurman to come back.

"It would have been nice to have him, but we didn't have him last year, we didn't have him in the spring, and the coaches weren't (counting on him) because they made some other moves," Thornton said. "You like to have all your players, and he's one of your better players. But I think we'll be fine."

Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan shrugged as he checked into his dorm room.

"I don't count on anybody unless they're in uniform," he said. "There's nothing to really say."

But to a man Thurman's teammates felt badly for him.

"Whether it's on a field or an office you just hope for the best for him," Palmer said. "Deep down he's a good kid. He's got a great heart. He made some bad decisions and he's (paying) the consequences right now. He's a good football player to go along with being a good person. ... He's got enough drive and work ethic; he'll do what it takes to get back on the field."

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