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Thurman ready to start season


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Thurman ready to start season

By Kevin Goheen

Post staff reporter

DETROIT - Bengals middle linebacker Odell Thurman was one of five finalists for the Diet Pepsi Rookie of the Year award but lost out to Tampa Bay running back Carnell Williams. Thurman was in Detroit for the announcement, and he's already looking forward to next season.

"You look back on it and I had a great rookie year and I had a whole lot of fun," said Thurman, who led the Bengals with 148 tackles and topped all rookies with five interceptions. "I'm just looking forward to getting the second one started. We had a great season and there's no reason for anyone to panic. We've got a lot of guys coming back, we've still got a young team and we've got me as a second-year player now.

"A whole lot better and smarter me means a whole lot better defense than we had last year."

The Bengals defense starter well in the first half of the season, allowing just 13 touchdowns in the first nine games, but that changed dramatically in the final seven regular season games and in the playoff loss against Pittsburgh. In the last eight games, the Bengals allowed an average of 31 points and opponents converted 41 of 84 (48.8 percent) third-down opportunities against them. They finished ranked 28th in overall defense.

Thurman admitted that the long NFL season - training camp began in late July and the Bengals reached the postseason for the first time in 15 years - did take a toll on him, but he didn't use that as any excuse. Increasing his strength and studying the playbook more are his goals this offseason.

"I didn't have any injuries or anything like that but it is a long season," said Thurman. "It drags out. I don't think I got any better as the season went on but I got smarter and the game did slow down. My second year will be better for me."

Besides Williams, the four other finalists for the award were all linebackers: Thurman, San Diego's Shawne Merriman, Seattle's Lofa Tatupu and DeMarcus Ware of Dallas. Tatupu will start for the Seahawks in Sunday's Super Bowl XL against the Steelers.

"I've watched him since we've been out and he's been ballin'," said Thurman. "He doesn't mind coming up and hitting anyone in the mouth so we are kind of similar."

POLAMALU PROBABLE - Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu suffered a slight ankle twist on Thursday and missed part of practice. He was added to the Steelers' injury report as probable for the Super Bowl. Defensive end Travis Kirschke and fullback Dan Kreider did not dress for practice.

The Steelers practiced for 90 minutes for the second straight day after getting through the annual circus that is media day.

"Early in the week, you kind of lose your sense of perception," said Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. "It was nice (Wednesday) to get back on the football field and gear back into what's important. In season, you get into such a routine. All of a sudden that changes."

COOL DOWN - At the Seahawks practice, players engaged in a couple of minor fights.

"This has happened every year I've coached in this game," said head coach Mike Holmgren, who twice guided Green Bay to the Super Bowl. "By Thursday or Friday they get a little cranky and stuff happens."

Holmgren brought the team together near the end of practice.

"That can usually be a very competitive thing at home where guys get knocked around," Holmgren said. "I didn't want that. I wanted to go through the mechanics of it and take a little bit of the edge off it. I had to tell everybody how we were going to do that."

Seattle cornerback Andre Dyson returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday with a quadriceps injury, but wide receiver D.J. Hackett suffered a mild hamstring injury and had to sit out the majority of the workout.

GAME OFFICIALS - NFL referees have come under close scrutiny this postseason with questionable calls on the field and from the replay booth. The eyes of the football world will be on Bill Leavy Sunday.

Leavy has been named to head the officiating crew for Super Bowl XL. This will be Leavy's first Super Bowl assignment as the head referee, although he worked Super Bowl XXXIV (St. Louis vs. Tennessee) as a back judge. The officiating crew has a total of 58 years of NFL experience and 40 postseason game assignments. Head linesman Mark Hittner is the only other member of the crew beside Leavy who has worked a Super Bowl before. Hittner worked Super Bowls XXXVI (New England vs. St. Louis) and XXXVIII (New England vs. Carolina).

HALL OF FAME - The 2006 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be announced Saturday afternoon following a morning meeting of the selection committee. The committee is made up of 39 media members from around the country and candidates must receive at least 80 percent of the vote to be enshrined.

Between four and seven players will be selected for enshrinement.

The 15 candidates are: quarterback Troy Aikman, linebacker Harry Carson, defensive end L.C. Greenwood, guard Russ Grimm, defensive end Claude Humphrey, wide receiver Michael Irvin, guard Bob Kuechenberg, coach John Madden, wide receiver Art Monk, quarterback Warren Moon, linebacker Derrick Thomas, running back Thurman Thomas, defensive lineman Reggie White and offensive tackles Rayfield Wright and Gary Zimmerman.


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Sure, a good, big DT will help all the LB's one way or another, but a lot of Odell's problems are of his own doing.

The ESPN show on the rookies last night highlighted a great example of that - when Parker ran for his long TD to seal the 1st Pitt loss, Parker was Odell's man-to-man responsibility and he failed to even touch him. He hesitated for just second, Parker saw it, and kicked into gear to the outside and beat Odell up the sideline. In college he could get away with stuff like that, not now, he's adjusting.

Then they showed the infamous Bettis goal line fake hand-off and Odell bit on it and left the TE wide open in the back of the end zone. Pitt was just toying with him - but Odell got 'em back the 2nd time around.

Hunley kept saying Odell has to learn to take it one play at a time, and concentrate on nothing but football off the field, and on, and learn what he can and can't get away with at the NFL level still. (Odell is not an x's and o's type of guy, nor is he a student of the game yet by any means - that's his weakeness right now)

Can only hope his mental mistakes go away sooner than later, the only thing holding him back from elite status really. Guy's an amazing athlete and has a ton of raw physical talent that's hard to find in a player that size.

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diden't Heath miller have a illegal block on that play vs Odell

Nah, Odell actually made a lot of rookie mistakes, it happens.

Yeah, rookie mistakes happen. Just imagine:

Odell - Mistakes = Deeper playoff run + Pro Bowl

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