Odell Thurman, via yahoo.com
Last week, I was excited to see Kenny Wright removed from the Browns' roster. As a fan, I couldn't justify Wright's actions in any way, shape, or form. Some NFL players are far from saints, but when they do something while they are on your roster, it's time to dispose of them.
That's part of the reason "problem" players have not lasted with teams they originated from. Pacman Jones, Terrell Owens, and Antonio Bryant all had some form of a character issue, with other teams taking a significant flier on them. In the Browns' case, we were the team to take a shot on Bryant. Although we weren't crazy about him, the investment as a short-term option wasn't too bad.
That brings us to a very interesting case in Bengals linebacker Odell Thurman. I should call him "former" Bengals linebacker, because he was released yesterday after taking too long to return to the voluntary OTA practices due to the death of his grandmother. Thurman had a week to mourn her death and did not return to the team fast enough, apparently representing the final straw.
Thurman has not played the past two seasons for violating the league's substance abuse and conduct policies. That means that Thurman -- drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft -- has only played one season in the NFL. That season was a memorable one though.
5 fumbles forced.
In two combined games against the Browns, Thurman was in on 16 tackles, had half of a sack, and had an interception. He wasn't a hit-or-miss player as a rookie either -- he was, in my opinion, the only young defensive player that has had a solid impact as a rookie for Cincinnati in several years.
"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," head coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement. "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."
It may seem like hypocrisy for me to say that I'd encourage the Browns to take a flier on Thurman, considering my strong attitude against Wright. While I certainly don't condone Thurman's actions, I am more inclined to take a chance on a young player that could be shaped into a better person overall with the right team leaders and coaching staff around him. The Bengals have been a breeding ground for players committing inexcusable actions -- another reason to believe Thurman could take advantage of a fresh start.
I was carousing the OBR forums, and I wasn't the least bit surprised by the 50/50 split of maliciousness/take-a-flier debate that was going back and forth.
Half of the fans don't think he'll ever change -- that he had character issues from his college days, and that there were other "no-no's" that Thurman was doing even after he was reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last month. Here's a comment from the OBR that sums this viewpoint up pretty well:
"Bengals fans have to be loving this. After giving them crap for the past two years about their arrests record, we want to sign Odell Thurman? I mean, two threads talking about signing this drug addict? Unbelievable."
The other half of the fans say "why not"? Thurman isn't going to get a large contract from anybody -- if he wants to play football still, he has to earn his contract through being on a short leash in terms of character and producing on the field. Also, Thurman might be intrigued to play for an AFC North team so that he can get his crack at the Bengals. Thurman is a middle linebacker, and would be the type of guy to give Andra Davis a run for his money more so than Beau Bell, if he stays consistent with his rookie form. Here's a comment from the OBR that sums this viewpoint up pretty well:
"I really hate to say it, but my eyes popped a bit when I saw the stats from his rookie season on ESPN. Based on the substance abuse and drunk driving charges, I'd say he's more of a knucklehead than a thug. Apparently the straw that broke the camel's back was a funeral he went to instead of OTA's...
I'm for a short-leash "one-mistake-and-you're-gone" contract. He's potentially a beast compared to what we have on the inside."
Granted, 30 other teams could be more interested in signing Thurman than the Browns are. Or, nobody may even want to give Thurman a shot until later in the offseason, forcing him to be an automatic backup/special teams player for a year. Either way, I'm interested in what your take is on the thought of signing him.