By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks will finish the regular season without cornerback Brandon Browner, who has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances.
When Browner returns to action will depend on how Seattle plays in his absence. Should the Seahawks make the playoffs, Browner, a Pro Bowl player last season, will be eligible to play in the postseason. If the 7-5 Seahawks falter down the stretch, however, Browner’s return would have to come in next year’s opener.
While he’s out, the Seahawks will fill Browner’s spot with Walter Thurmond, a player the Seahawks have been high on since drafting him in the fourth round in 2010.
Thurmond suffered a broken leg last season and a setback in the spring that delayed his 2012 debut until last week.
With Thurmond moving outside, rookie Jeremy Lane will be the Seahawks’ third corner, coach Pete Carroll said.
Reports first surfaced after Seattle’s loss in Miami that Browner and fellow cornerback Richard Sherman had failed drug tests and were facing suspensions. Both appealed, which allowed them to play in Sunday’s win over Chicago, but Browner elected to drop his appeal this week and serve the suspension now.
Sherman has an appeal scheduled for Dec. 14, meaning he will play this weekend and likely the following week against Buffalo because the appeal is occurring late enough in the week that the league would almost certainly start his suspension the following week.
Last week, Sherman maintained his innocence when talking to reporters, and Browner’s agent also said his client had done nothing wrong.
Browner dropping the appeal now isn’t necessarily an admission of guilt as much as it is resignation to the fact that suspensions for performance enhancing drug use are rarely overturned. The NFL doesn’t care how a banned substance found its way into a players body, whether it was from taking a mislabeled supplement or from accidentally drinking from a spiked water bottle.
The league’s long-standing message to players is that they are responsible for what goes in their bodies, period. And by dropping his appeal now rather than dragging the process out, Browner assures himself a chance to return for the playoffs if the Seahawks can get there.
While there is no arguing the importance of cornerback play in Seattle’s defense, the Seahawks do feel like they have the depth to handle Browner’s absence.
Thurmond was ahead of Sherman on the depth chart last season, and briefly took over as a starter for an injured Marcus Trufant, only to break his leg in his third start of the season.
Sherman didn’t just fill in admirably, he grabbed a hold of a starting job and never let go, and this year has developed into one of the league’s best shutdown corners.
“Trufant went down and I had to step in, then I went down,” Thurmond said. “We just have a lot of depth on the team.”
Thurmond won’t necessarily jump in and play at a Pro Bowl level, but he should at least give Seahawks fans some level of confidence that this regime knows how to find and develop talented defensive backs.
Carroll praised Thurmond’s talent and noted that Thurmond likely would have been selected much earlier in the NFL draft had he not been coming back from a serious knee injury suffered during his senior season at Oregon.
“We had him as a very high draft pick that was injured, and then we thought we were fortunate to get him in the fourth round,” Carroll said of Thurmond. “We felt like that was a real fortunate pick because of his ability, and his return ability as well. We seriously think that we’re very fortunate that we have a guy of his caliber ready to step in.”
Nobody wants to see a teammate out, be it because of injury or suspension, but Thurmond is looking forward to this opportunity, especially after having to battle back from a serious injury.
“That’s just the NFL,” Thurmond said. “Somebody goes down and you have to be able to step up. It’s like that all over the league. You just have to make the most of your opportunity when you get a chance.”
Against the Bears, Thurmond played as Seattle’s nickel cornerback in place of Marcus Trufant, who is battling a hamstring injury.
Lane, a sixth-round pick out of Northwestern State University, has been a standout on special teams, but has not played on defense. He fully expects the Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald to try to pick on him, but is looking forward to that challenge.
“I expect them to come my way, but hopefully when they come my way I’ll shut it down and they’ll stop picking on me,” Lane said.
With Browner on the suspended list, the Seahawks signed rookie DeShawn Shead off of their practice squad. Seattle also signed Ron Parker, who had previously spent time with the Seahawks, off of Carolina’s practice squad, filling the spot that came open when Braylon Edwards was waived Tuesday.
Receiver Sidney Rice (head) was limited in practice Wednesday, but has been cleared to return to action and is expected to play against Arizona. Red Bryant (foot) did not practice, but Carroll said the defensive end is on track to play. Linebacker Leroy Hill, who missed last week’s game with an ankle injury, was limited in practice. … Quarterback Russell Wilson was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in Seattle’s victory in Chicago, making him the first Seahawk to earn that honor since running back Shaun Alexander in 2005.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.