Seahawks’ Browner suspended indefinitely by NFL

RENTON — Brandon Browner’s season, and in all likelihood his Seattle Seahawks career, came to an end Wednesday with the NFL announcing that the cornerback has been suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

News that Browner was facing the ban, which will last at least a year, first surfaced last month, but he appealed, which caused the process to drag out until now. Browner, via a statement released on Twitter, and his agent have vowed to continue fighting the league’s decision, though at this point that would be to help his chances of earlier reinstatement next year, not of playing this season.

Browner, 29, will be a free agent after this season, and given that Seattle has exceptional depth at the position — the Seahawks have gone 9-1 in games Browner has missed over the past two seasons — and that he also was suspended last season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, there is little chance he ends up back in Seattle whenever his suspension is lifted. Browner seemed to acknowledge as much in a statement that reads like a goodbye.

“I want to thank the Seahawks organization for the incredible opportunity they gave me when they took a chance on a player who was out of the NFL and playing in the CFL for 4 years,” Browner wrote. “I also want to thank all of my teammates, coaches, trainers, staff and the 12’s for their support, respect, and friendship and for helping me grow into the player, father, and person I am today. I have been treated with nothing but first class by everyone associated with the Seattle Seahawks and for that I am forever grateful. Although I disagree with the circumstances surrounding my suspension, I accept responsibility for all of my actions and I apologize for any that causes any unflattering reflections of my family and the Seahawks. I believe in my innocence and will continue to fight with all legal resources available to me to. Go Hawks!!!”

While still on the team’s active roster before Wednesday, Browner has missed the previous four games because of a groin injury, and the Seahawks defense played well despite his absence, as well as that of cornerback Walter Thurmond, who is serving a four-game suspension for a substance abuse violation (both players reportedly tested positive for marijuana).

Prior to news of Browner’s suspension coming out, head coach Pete Carroll said there were no guarantees of who would play if and when the team was at full strength given how well Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane have played filling in for Browner and Thurmond.

“Had he come back, who would play? It’s a great question,” Carroll said. “One of you guys would ask that question a week from now if he was back. Byron’s done a great job. He hasn’t just made it through, he has done a great job of playing. That Wally Pipp story comes to life sometimes, and I’m thrilled about what Byron has done.”

Browner’s appeal was reportedly based on him being elevated to stage three of the league’s drug program not because of a failed test, but because he had missed tests while out of the league and playing in Canada. Browner initially was in the league’s drug program because of a failed test during his brief stint with Denver prior to playing in the CFL.

Players who fail a test while in stage three of the league’s drug program, “will be banished from the NFL for a minimum period of one calendar year,” which is why the suspension is classified as an indefinite one, not a one-year ban. After that year is up, Browner can apply for reinstatement. Browner, who made the Pro Bowl in 2011 in his first season with Seattle, might not have an NFL career ahead of him if he isn’t able to win the fight he and his agent are promising. It’s highly unlikely a team would be interested in signing him at the very end of next season when he could potentially be reinstated, which would mean he would be fighting for a roster spot in 2015 at age 31 having been out of the league for a full season.

“We will continue to exhaust all administrative remedies,” Browner’s agent Peter Schaffer told ProFootballTalk.com. “If not successful, we will sue the living daylights out of the league.”

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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