Updates from Wednesday, March 5
Should he comply with the terms of the Substance Abuse Policy and Program, he will be fully reinstated after serving a four-game suspension without pay at the start of the 2014 regular season and forfeiting an additional four weeks of pay.
ESPN's SportsCenter Twitter account previously suggested Browner may still face additional punishment during the 2014 season despite being reinstated on Tuesday:
The NFL officially reinstated suspended Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner on Tuesday, allowing him back into the league a week before he's expected to hit unrestricted free agency.
Although the league has yet to confirm the news, Browner made the announcement on his official Twitter feed. He also released a statement thanking friends and family for their support, saying in part:
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.
A 2011 Pro Bowl selection, Browner was suspended midway through last season for one year due to repeated violations of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. The NFL later changed the suspension to an "indefinite" ban after Browner refused to accept a reduction deal offered by the league, setting the stage for a contentious and arguably career-threatening battle.
The suspension stemmed in part from Browner missing NFL-mandated drug tests when he was out of the league. (Browner played for the CFL's Calgary Stampeders from 2007 to 2010.)
Because he missed multiple tests, he was placed in Stage 3 of the league's substance-abuse policy and therefore subject to harsher penalties. As recently as last week, Browner was preparing to sue the NFL for reinstatement and to reclaim lost wages resulting from the ban.
"I'm old-school," Peter Schaffer, Browner's attorney, told ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams last week. "Why would an employer be allowed to have post-employment restrictions on an employee? Why would an employer be able to do that?"
Browner's reinstatement comes just as his representation was planning to file the suit. Tom Pelissero of USA Today is reporting Browner will no longer seek recovery of damages due to the settlement:
With reinstatement out of the way, Browner can now focus on the more important task: finding a job. He will become an unrestricted free agent on March 11, and almost certainly won't be back in Seattle. The Seahawks, while they plan on awarding him a playoff check and Super Bowl ring, likely have no use for the aging corner in their secondary.
Pete Carroll's squad saw no sign of regression after Browner's suspension and, in fact, shut down the highest-scoring offense in NFL history without him in Super Bowl XLVIII. Even though Browner and Richard Sherman were integral to creating the dominant defensive culture—remember, Browner made the Pro Bowl two years before Sherman—four-year veteran corner Byron Maxwell filled in admirably in Browner's absence.
There are also some looming questions about Browner's effectiveness. He's a total nonentity against the run, ranking 81st among cornerbacks in run stop percentage, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He was still very solid in pass coverage, but the Seahawks didn't miss a beat with Maxwell. And it's also fair to speculate about how much of Browner's effectiveness was tied to Carroll's system, which makes stars out of mid-to-late-round picks seemingly with ease.
Teams will and should come armed with just one-year, incentive-laden deals. Browner has now been suspended in each of the last two seasons for drug use. Regardless of his performance level at his peak, Browner is unreliable at best and a potential major distraction at worst.
Of course, a short-term deal should do Browner just fine. He would probably prefer a "prove it" deal, where he could reenter the open market in 2015 coming off a comeback season. Either way, the onus is now on Browner to prove to a team he's worth a shot.
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