Odell Thurman. The mere mention of his name makes Bengals fans shudder. He, along with other players, were apart of a very elite group of players that caused so much off-the-field problems in 2006, that the Bengals started becoming the poster-children of athletes gone wrong. Kind of like an NBA team eight years ago. But as a Bengals fan, the mention of him also makes me sad, knowing that the guy that was supposed to be Cincinnati's future defensive leader. All of the sudden, he just crashed and burned off the field.
There's no denying that Odell had the tools to be a stud linebacker in the NFL and he showed a lot of promise his rookie season. Unfortunately, the Bengals watched their second round pick in 2005 become the target of Chancellor Roger Goodell's tightening personal conduct policies. Thurman hasn't played in the NFL since his rookie season in 2005.
However, he's reportedly working hard to make something of his life, making a stop with UFL's Orlando team, where former Bengals defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan works as a coordinator. And Chuck is mightily impressed with the progress that Odell is making.
“Odell played lights-out football. It was really fun to watch him come back and do the things he loves to do,” Bresnahan said. “On the practice field, in the games, even in the meeting rooms during training camp and the season, he was incredible. His personality is infectious. He did a tremendous job.”
Bresnahan is hoping Thurman has overcome the demons.
“I would like to say yes because while he was there he was a model professional athlete,” Bresnahan said. “He did everything the right way. He studied. He abided by the rules. He did everything you asked him to do and he played lights-out football. I know there were (NFL) teams interested in the end, but he has to go through the reinstatement process. That’s up to him. I called on his behalf and really think the world of him as a football player and I think he has matured a lot and hopefully turned that corner for the positive.”
You know it. I know it. If Odell does return to the NFL, there's more than a slim chance that Bengals owner Mike Brown would take a flyer on Odell. Think of it from Brown's perspective. Dhani enters the final year under contract. Sign Odell to a bare-bones minimum contract. Keep Rey Maualuga at strong-side linebacker and boom, you have your starting linebackers far beyond 2010. And if Odell plays at the level he did his rookie season, I'm not so sure I wouldn't entertain the notion with guys on the roster that could help Odell like they did with Chris Henry, provided Odell wants that like Henry did.
Still, while there's a slight chance, I wouldn't expect it. As Geoff Hobson bluntly writes, "don’t look for him" to return to the Bengals.