Release of Thurman Not Surprising

The fascination of Odell Thurman returning and playing for the Bengals this season was stronger than the reality of the situation. The fact of the matter is that for some time now Thurman has not been in the plans for the Bengals. Marvin Lewis' lack of words spoke loudly to that point.

It pays to listen to people. Take Marvin Lewis for instance. He has been criticized in the past for saying a whole lot of nothing during press conferences or for being too abrupt with reporters and some of their questions. When it came to the future of linebacker Odell Thurman playing in Cincinnati, however, Lewis was consistent throughout.

Even three weeks ago, a day after the Bengals had selected Southern California outside linebacker Keith Rivers with the ninth overall pick in the NFL Draft, Lewis was never willing to put Thurman into the mix of names mentioned when talking about the Bengals linebacking group.

Lewis spoke in a one-on-one interview with about Rivers, Dhani Jones, Ahmad Brooks, Rashad Jeanty, Corey Mays, Jim Maxwell, Darryl Blackstock and Brandon Johnson. He spoke about Eric Henderson, who has since been seen working out as a defensive end. He even spoke in praising terms about Roy Manning and Anthony Schlegel, two players who have since been cut.

Lewis didn't talk about Thurman until prompted as to why.

"He's the last member of our football team," said Lewis that day. "Not a lot has changed. These guys have proven their hungry so that's why I'm excited about where they are."

So it should come as no surprise that the Bengals released Thurman on Monday. The cutting of ties with Thurman, the team's second-round pick in 2005 and an All-Rookie performer that season, comes less than one month after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reinstated Thurman after two seasons of a league-mandated suspension.

Yes, Thurman was not in town last week for the opening of OTA workouts, on-field practices that are voluntary for players to attend. He was home in Monticello, Ga., attending to the funeral of his grandmother, the woman who had raised him after the death of his mother when Thurman was 10 years old. The funeral was on Monday and the team did want Thurman back on Tuesday for the on-field sessions but that wasn't the sole reason Thurman was released.

The decision-making process ran deeper and longer than three missed voluntary practices.

"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," said Lewis in a press release. "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."

The Bengals, through public relations director Jack Brennan, declined further comment on the matter aside from what was stated in its press release.

By releasing Thurman the Bengals now have nine or 10 linebackers on the roster, depending on where Henderson ends up playing. There is no official depth chart but if the Bengals were to start lining people up today for a game one would have to figure that at the top of the list would be Rivers, Brooks (assuming he is 100 percent healthy), Dhani Jones, Jeanty and Blackstock.

Brooks said last week that the team has been having him play on the strongside of the three-linebacker alignment but there would appear to be no other obvious choice for a starting middle linebacker; the other players have predominantly been outside linebackers in the past. Brooks does have a legal issue hanging over his head; he has a June 6 court appearance in northern Kentucky to face a charge of misdemeanor assault against a woman who claims he hit her in her left eye during an argument in April.

Dhani Jones finished last season playing on the weak side but that is the position Rivers played in college and he is likely to be in the lineup from Day 1. Could Jones move to the inside? While it might not be his best position he certainly has the smarts and guile to make the transition and there would be no doubt about his presence in the huddle as a leader. Despite not joining the Bengals until after the second game of last season Jones was voted as a full-time captain by his teammates within a couple of weeks.

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