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Brandon Browner fighting to become a free agent


By Danny O’Neil

Brandon Browner is fighting for his NFL future whether or not that future includes the Seahawks.

In fact, it most likely won’t. Browner had been benched for more than a quarter during a home game in October, and after a groin injury was passed first by Walter Thurmond and then Byron Maxwell on the depth chart.

A lawsuit is expected to be filed next week on behalf of Brandon Browner challenging the cornerback’s indefinite supsension from the NFL. (AP)

Browner started the past three years at cornerback for the Seahawks, making the Pro Bowl with the team in 2011, and it would be shocking if he didn’t receive a Super Bowl ring for his role on the team last season. But when a lawsuit is filed on his behalf in Colorado next week as his agent told it will be, he won’t be seeking to rejoin Seattle. He is at the end of his contract, unfettered and unrestricted and seeking an opportunity to sign with any of the league’s 32 teams.

Just whether – and more importantly to Browner, when – he is able to do that may be left for the courts to decide.

The NFL suspended Browner indefinitely on Dec. 18, 2013 for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse. Under the league’s collective bargaining agreement, he is not able to apply for reinstatement for one year, which will be the final month of the 2014 season.

It’s a punishment Browner will seek to challenge in court in a lawsuit that his agent pointed to back in December when the suspension was announced. That suit is expected to be filed next week in Colorado.

The timing of the lawsuit is significant, and Peter Schaffer – Browner’s agent – told it will include a request for a preliminary injunction to allow Browner to be considered a free agent on March 11, free to sign with any team, pending the resolution of the case.

Browner will be taking legal issue with the arbitration process under the NFL’s collective-bargaining agreement, arguing the league is taking into account drug-test appointments Browner is alleged to have missed when he was not employed in the league.

Here’s what we know about his case:

Browner entered the league in 2005, an undrafted rookie out of Oregon State signed by the Broncos. He spent that season on injured reserve and was released the following year before the season began. At some point in his time with the Broncos, he was entered into the league’s substance-abuse program.

Browner did not play with an NFL team in 2006, and in 2007, he played the first of four seasons in the Canadian Football League. He returned to the NFL in 2011 when he was signed by the Seahawks and made the Pro Bowl that year.

Browner was suspended for the final four regular-season games in 2012 under the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. In the nine days before that suspension was announced, there were reports Browner was subjected to more frequent tests because he was in the league’s substance-abuse program for a violation dating back to his time with Denver.

In November 2013, it was reported on the league’s official website Browner would face another suspension for violating the policy on performance-enhancing drugs. This report was later corrected to indicate that the suspension would be under the substance-abuse policy.

Then came the Dec. 18 announcement – with two regular-season games left – that Browner was suspended indefinitely under the substance-abuse program.

Generally, a first violation of the substance-abuse policy does not result in a suspension, but rather enrollment in the substance-abuse program. Once in the program, a second violation usually results in a four-game suspension with a third violation constituting an indefinite ban.

Browner received no suspension under the substance-abuse program until the indefinite ban was announced, and Browner will challenge the validity of the league’s procedure in counting a missed test(s) as a violation of the substance-abuse program.