The long way back to Seattle for Brandon Browner includes a job change, as well minimal discussion of his role in The Play That Cannot be Unseen.
Brandon Browner has a remarkable football passport: A gifted SoCal kid who played All-Pac-12 college ball at Oregon State, couldn’t get a job in the NFL, played in the Canadian Football League four years for Calgary, joined the Seahawks in 2011 and was named to a Pro Bowl — as well as named a violator of the NFL’s ban on performance-enhancing drugs.
After the Seahawks let him go into free agency in 2014, he spent a season in New England, and another season in New Orleans. Now he’s back in Seattle, where he is the only player who can say he intentionally helped the Seahawks win and lose a Super Bowl.
Except he doesn’t say it.
“Touchy subject — I try to leave that one alone, man,’’ Browner said Thursday after the first organized team activity open to media. “It (comes up) every now and again. But hey, I try and leave it alone. We don’t talk about that much.”
The elephant in the locker room of which he spoke is his role as Patriots cornerback that helped thwart Seattle’s comeback at the goal line to preserve New England’s 28-24 triumph in Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix.
The play that 12s still talk to their therapists about happened in part because Browner stopped — some would say held — WR Jermaine Kearse from picking CB Malcolm Butler (video here if you can stand it), who a moment later transformed from an undrafted free agent from West Alabama into a global superhero, while turning the Seahawks into global dopes.
The irony was that Browner was a full-season starter for the Pats, yet didn’t play in Seattle’s Super Bowl win over Denver Broncos because of the suspension. But he did perform an identical feat for the Patriots and Seahawks. He led the NFL in penalties in 2011 for Seattle and in 2014 for the Patriots.
In 2015 for the Saints, he again led the NFL in penalties with 24 (21 accepted), most by any player in a single season since at least 2001, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Which perhaps explains why Browner was so terse in talking about his season in the cruelly nicknamed Big Easy, where the Saints gave up an NFL-record 45 passing touchdowns.
“I’m here in Seattle,” he said. “I don’t even want to talk about New Orleans.”
Even coach Pete Carroll, one of the world’s most active distributors of joy, knew better than to ignore the heavy yellow color of Browner’s football passport.
“Just last year?’’ Carroll said, smiling, when asked of Browning’s penchant for penalties. “He has been somewhat of a violator in that regard.”
Yes, he has been somewhat of a violator, on multiple levels. Including one that helps explain why Browner, 32 in August, is back here on a one-year deal for the veterans minimum of $760,000 — he’s a defensive back who is 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds, virtues Carroll finds irresistible.
That outsized physique for a DB is so important to Carroll that he’s willing to forgive some things. Although he’s not forgetting.
“Interestingly, we talked about (penalties) today that in his new role, the different style of players that he matches up (with), he’s got to develop his style where that isn’t a favor,” Carroll said. “We don’t want that to be an issue, and it has been in the past, so that’s a challenge for us.’’
So the Seahawks are attempting to make his on-field portfolio as diverse as his passport. They see him having a reserve role as a strong safety/ linebacker hybrid type. Perhaps it’s also like a late-stage American League batter: He’s becoming a designated hitter.
The less chasing of quick little guys on the perimeter, the better.
“I love it,” Browner said. “It’s kind of similar to some of the things I did in New England. I’ll be matched up on guys that fit my size, be in there on the run a little bit. It’ll show my skillset a little bit.
“Playing corner, it’s more of a one-on-one thing — we’re playing basketball out there on that island. When you’re in that box, that’s football. Things are just a little different. But you’re a football player in there.”
What appeals to Carroll is the same virtue owned by another blast from the championship past, DE Chris Clemons. Despite being 34, Clemons, the guy who started ahead of Michael Bennett in the New York Super Bowl, was re-signed because, like Browner, he’s great-white-shark tough.
“It really goes back to the basics” of who Browner is, Carroll said. “He’s plays really tough football. He’s a guy who draws the best out of people around him; guys feed off his energy because he’s so tough. Then, his willingness to go ahead and learn a new spot. He was wide open to it.
“I had the chance to see him play in positions like he’s being asked to play now when he was in New England. We saw some really good things we thought we could mix into our stuff, and he’s very much looked the part. But I really think it’s about him. We like the guy so much.”
They even like him enough to not mention the unmentionable.