After a threat from his agent to sue, the NFL dropped its one-year suspension of Brandon Browner, allowing him to enter free agency March 11. His return to the Seahawks is unknown.
CB Brandon Browner, a key figure in the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” now a free agent, wrote on his Twitter account Tuesday that he was reinstated by the NFL after receiving a suspension late last season that would have lasted through 2014.
Browner’s positive test for what was reported to be marijuana was called a stage three violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. His first violation occurred when he was with the Denver Broncos in 2006, then was moved to stage two when the NFL claimed he did not respond to test requirements while playing in Canada from 2007-10.
“I received wonderful news today. The NFL has reinstated me, and I now have the opportunity to prove to the fans and my teammates how important this sport is to me. I realize now more than ever that being part of the NFL is not a right, but a privilege. I am grateful that Commissioner Goodell and my agent were able to resolve this issue in a positive, productive manner so I can continue my career, provide for my family, and help my team win a Super Bowl. Thank you to all who have gone out of their way to show their support. I will live up to your expectations of me.”
Browner had eight starts before injuring his groin. Then came news Dec. 18 of his indefinite suspension that would be at least a year, which at his age, 29, may well have been a career-ender. Browner’s appeal of the NFL ruling was denied.
Peter Schaffer, Browner’s agent, said last week he was preparing a lawsuit against the NFL, seeking a temporary injunction in order to make Browner eligible for free agency that begins March 11.
“I don’t understand how the league can ruin someone’s career over this fact pattern,” Schaffer told ProFootballTalk.com. “I’ll represent Brandon zealously to make sure his career isn’t ruined.”
The lawsuit, which Schaffer said would claim that Browner was neither an employee of the league nor a member of the union when the second strike occurred, was a risk for player and agent.
“My job is to protect my player,” Schaffer said. “You can use the word ‘blackball’ for Brandon. I could get blackballed, too. But I don’t care. I’d do it every day of the week.”
Schaffer told PFT after Browner’s tweet that the player was reinstated immediately. The league has yet to comment on its decision.
Browner made $773,756, the final year of a three-year contract, a good deal for the Seahawks considering he made the Pro Bowl in 2011. But the suspension, his second after a four-game ring-up in 2012 for violating the NFL policy against performance-enhancing drugs (believed to be the stimulant Adderall), threw the Seahawks roster into confusion.
The Seahawks were unclear about whether they could replace Browner on the active roster. They brought in a player, CB Perrish Cox, then cut him a day later when Browner’s appeal continued. Coach Pete Carroll expressed some dismay about the process, but remained personally supportive of Browner.
Whether the Seahawks would bring back Browner, an Oregon State grad, is an open question. His play dropped early in the season, resulting in a brief benching, and speculation began as to whether Seahawks would bring him back for his age-30 season, even if he were healthy and free of NFL punishment.
Browner had the support of his teammates. A couple of weeks ago the team voted him a full share of playoff income and a championship ring. Then there was this tweet Tuesday from FS Earl Thomas:
Just heard the GREAT NEWS that my brother @bbrowner27 was reinstated!!! Can’t wait to see him back out on that field next year!!!
— Earl Thomas (@Earl_Thomas) March 5, 2014