Bengals linebacker Odell Thurman will be suspended for the first four games of the NFL season for violation of the leagueís substance abuse policy, a source close to the situation told the Enquirer this afternoon.
The source said it was not necessarily a positive drug test that led to Thurmanís suspension. A missed test also counts the same as a positive test.
Thurman, who turned 23 on July 9, was one of the NFLís top defensive rookies in 2005. He had a team-high 148 tackles and tied for the team lead with four forced fumbles. He returned one of his five interceptions for a touchdown. He started 15 games at middle linebacker and did not start the 16th for violation of a team rule.
Questions about Thurmanís health or status for the upcoming season surfaced during the mandatory June mini-camp. He was excused for personal reasons, coach Marvin Lewis said at the time.
Questions about Thurmanís situation again surfaced today when the Bengals selected former University of Virginia linebacker Ahmad Brooks in the NFLís Supplemental Draft. The Bengals also used their fifth-round pick in the April 29-30 draft on former Florida State linebacker A.J. Nicholson.
Depth is no problem at linebacker for the Bengals. They also have returning second-year pro David Pollack, their first-round pick in 2005. They also drafted a pair of linebackers in the third round in 2004, Caleb Miller and Landon Johnson. Johnson started 11 games at middle linebacker as a rookie in place of injured starter Nate Webster. Johnson led the Bengals with 133 tackles as a rookie and appears to be the likely candidate to start in place of Thurman during the first month.
Pollack figures to be the starter at strong-side linebacker, and veteran Brian Simmons is likely to again start at weak-side linebacker.