Bengals LB Thurman expects reinstatement decision in next few weeks
Thurman has applied for reinstatement and should know in mid-February whether commissioner Roger Goodell will allow him back in the game, agent Safarrah Lawson said.
While Goodell weighs his case, Thurman is pursuing a federal employment complaint against the league, claiming he was given an unusually long suspension because he is an alcoholic.
"Odell is doing well," Lawson said. "He's working out, trying to get ready mentally and physically for the season."
Thurman, a second-round draft pick in 2005, showed immense promise as a rookie. He started 15 games at middle linebacker, led the team in tackles and tied the team rookie record with five interceptions.
He was suspended for the first four games of the 2006 season after skipping a drug test. The suspension was extended to the full season after he was arrested for drunken driving. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to six days in a treatment center.
Two men in Monticello, Ga., filed a complaint alleging Thurman kicked and hit them at a party two days after he settled his drunken driving case in Cincinnati. The men later dropped their complaint, and no charges were filed.
Thurman expected to be reinstated for the 2007 season, but Goodell turned down his request shortly before the start of training camp. Goodell, who has taken a hard line on player misconduct, said Thurman could apply for reinstatement after sitting out a second straight season.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league had no comment on Thurman's case.
Thurman is pursuing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that the league violated The Americans with Disabilities Act by giving him such a lengthy punishment.
Federal law prohibits discrimination against anyone who has an impairment, including a drug or alcohol addiction. Lou Michels, the lawyer who is handling Thurman's complaint, said the league went too far when it refused to reinstate him for last season.
"It was his conduct that got him into the situation. He understands that," Michels said. "But he paid the price. He did his year away from football and the Bengals. The league decided to ramp up again and take another year away. It's inconsistent with how they've treated other people with similar or worse problems."
The law doesn't protect an employee who is drinking or using drugs, but says an employer can't discriminate against someone on the basis that they have an addiction.
"If you're abusing alcohol or drugs and you do something dumb, the law doesn't excuse that," Michels said. "That's not the issue. What happens when an employer takes action against you not because of what you've done, but because of what you are?"
The commission assigns an investigator to look into each complaint and decide if it has merit. If the commission thinks the law has been violated, it can file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. The case could take years to resolve.
Lynn Oliver, a supervisory investigator at the EEOC's district office in Indianapolis, said the commission isn't allowed to discuss any complaint unless a lawsuit is filed.
Thurman has two years left on his contract with the Bengals. The deal would pay him $520,000 in 2008 and $615,000 next year. He lost $785,000 in salary during his two-year suspension.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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