CINCINNATI -- Bengals middle linebacker Odell Thurman was suspended yesterday for the first four games of the season because he violated the NFL's substance abuse policy, the latest blow to a team already stung by player arrests.
Four others have been arrested in separate incidents in the past two months, focusing attention on Cincinnati's willingness to draft players with troubled pasts.
The latest transgression will cost the Bengals one of their top playmakers on defense. Thurman, a second-round draft pick out of Georgia last year, led the team in tackles and had five interceptions as a rookie.
"I'm very disappointed," coach Marvin Lewis said. "It's something that he needs to get in line in his life and get himself back ready to play football."
Outside linebacker Brian Simmons will move to the middle spot in training camp, which opens this weekend at Georgetown College in Kentucky. Thurman is eligible to work out and play in the preseason games, but Lewis hasn't decided if he will do so.
The Bengals will be leaning more heavily on the defense at the start of the season. Cincinnati is unsure whether quarterback Carson Palmer, making a comeback from reconstructive knee surgery, will be ready for the opener Sept. 10 at Kansas City.
Knowing that Thurman could be suspended, the Bengals took linebacker Ahmad Brooks in the supplemental draft earlier this month, drawing attention to the way they make draft picks. Brooks played at Virginia for three seasons but was kicked off the team after last season.
Rather than criticize the four arrested players at a preseason media luncheon, Lewis and owner Mike Brown stressed that none of the cases has gone to trial yet.
"There's no question we've had a bad run of events this spring," Lewis said. "These allegations have been embarrassing both to the players, our organization, and no question to our fans. And I apologize to them for that.
"However, these things still do remain allegations. At this point, not any of them have been adjudicated."
Three of the four arrested players were high draft picks with either criminal records or a history of problems with their college coaches.
Second-year receiver Chris Henry has been arrested four times since December, most recently on charges that he provided alcohol to minors. He is scheduled for trial Aug. 21 in Florida on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon.
Henry was ejected, benched and suspended at West Virginia, problems that prompted him to slip to the third round of the draft. The Bengals were aware of the troubles when they took him.
Linebacker A.J. Nicholson, a fifth-round pick in April, was charged last month with burglarizing the apartment of a former Florida State teammate.
Also last month, third-round pick Frostee Rucker was charged with two counts of spousal battery and vandalism in Los Angeles. Both had incidents before the draft.
The most recent arrest came last weekend, when third-year defensive tackle Matthias Askew was subdued with a Taser after Cincinnati police alleged he refused to move an illegally parked vehicle and refused to show identification.
Brown announced that all of the preseason and regular-season home games are sold out, the first time that has happened in Paul Brown Stadium's seven years.
Also, left tackle Levi Jones signed a six-year contract extension.Bengals bad boys
Four Bengals have been arrested in the past four months.
Chris Henry, WR -- The former Mountaineer has been arrested four times since December, most recently for providing alcohol to minors.
A.J. Nicholson, LB -- Fifth-round pick in April was charged with burglary.
Frostee Rucker, DE -- Third-round choice in April was charged with two counts of spousal battery and vandalism in Los Angeles.
Matthias Askew, DT -- Tasered by police last weekend in Cincinnati after refusing to move an illegally parked vehicle and show identification.Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Bengals linebacker Odell Thurman, battling with the Steelers' Hines Ward, was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
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