Thurman was suspended for the season because he violated the
NFL's substance abuse policy. He can apply to the league for
reinstatement before next season.
Lewis has been upset with the middle linebacker's repeated
off-field problems, and took his locker away when the NFL handed
down its suspension. Lewis also told Thurman to stay away from the
"Odell is not a member of this football team," Lewis said
Tuesday. "He's on suspension by the NFL. He's got a long road to
go. I'm not even going to spend any time talking about Odell.
"We're talking about our '07 season. He's not part of this
football team. We don't need to talk about it."
Thurman and receiver Chris Henry epitomized the underlying
problems with the '06 Bengals.
Thurman was a second-round draft pick in 2005 and started 15
games as a rookie. He led the team in tackles, tied for the lead in
forced fumbles, and had five interceptions, the most by any rookie
in the NFL.
It appeared that Thurman, who came out of Georgia with questions
about his character, was a defensive star in the making. But he got
a four-game suspension from the league for missing an offseason
After a victory in Pittsburgh left the Bengals 3-0, Thurman was
arrested for drunken driving that night. Henry, who has been
arrested four times, was a passenger in the vehicle but wasn't
The league extended Thurman's suspension for the rest of the
season, and Henry was benched by Lewis for the next game. The
league then added a two-game suspension for Henry, who has two
court cases pending heading into the offseason.
Lewis originally hoped that Thurman could become a leader like
middle linebacker Ray Lewis in Baltimore. Now, he appears to have
written him off.
Asked if Thurman could be part of the team again, Lewis said,
"I don't know that. I don't see it on our horizon."
Thurman's off-field problems forced the Bengals to rearrange
their linebackers and repeatedly switch their defensive lineups.
Although the defense improved overall this season, it faded during
an 0-3 finish that cost the Bengals (8-8) a chance to make the
Lewis said Tuesday that the defense was one of his biggest
"Defensively, I think the thing we really have to do is develop
an identity," Lewis said. "I think if you said what's a
disappointment, that's a disappointment. We didn't develop an
"We had a good start at it, we had a little blip in the middle,
and I don't think we finished it off very well. I know we didn't
finish it off very good. That's something that I've got to look