Bengals LB Thurman expects reinstatement decision in next few weeks

CINCINNATI -- Suspended Bengals linebacker Odell Thurman
expects to learn in a few weeks whether the NFL will reinstate him
for next season, ending his two-year banishment.

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

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

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.