RENTON, Wash. — Cornerback Brandon Browner began his four-game suspension sooner rather than later with an eye toward being available later this season.
Whether there will be games to play when he returns depends on how the Seahawks cope with the absence of their starting cornerback, who will miss the final four regular-season games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Walter Thurmond will start in Browner’s place beginning Sunday against Arizona.
If the Seahawks reach the postseason, Browner would be eligible for the playoffs.
Coach Pete Carroll declined to comment on Browner’s case, but said, “I’m disappointed that we’d lose anybody, whether it’s by injury or whatever.”
Browner’s suspension is the first step toward resolving the issue that has loomed over the Seahawks for the past week and a half. On Nov. 25, reports surfaced that Browner and fellow starting cornerback Richard Sherman tested positive for a banned substance and could face four-game suspensions. Several reports said that the banned substance for both players was an amphetamine in Adderall, a prescription drug used to treat Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The NFL and Seahawks won’t comment.
Sherman, the other half of the Seahawks’ tall, physical cornerback tandem, remains eligible to play. His hearing is scheduled for Dec. 14.
Browner dropped his appeal, thereby beginning his suspension this week and ensuring that Seattle won’t miss both of its starting cornerbacks for the same four games. If Sherman is suspended, the Seahawks won’t be without both players in the first round of the playoffs if the team reaches the postseason. Seattle (7-5) would qualify for the playoffs as an NFC wild card if the season ended now.
Thurmond will start in Browner’s place at right cornerback, with rookie Jeremy Lane expected to play when Seattle uses formations with five defensive backs. Veteran Marcus Trufant did not practice Wednesday because of a hamstring injury that caused him to miss Sunday’s overtime road victory over Chicago.
“The focus goes for us right to the guys who are stepping up,” Carroll said.
That was how Seattle approached the absences of linebackers K.J. Wright, who was replaced by Mike Morgan last month after suffering a concussion, and Leroy Hill, who missed Sunday’s game with a sore ankle and was replaced by Malcolm Smith.
“It’s like (Browner) got injured, really, is what it amounts to,” Carroll said.
Browner, 28, is in his second season with the Seahawks after being signed out of the Canadian Football League. He intercepted six passes last season and was named to the Pro Bowl. His suspension means he is not eligible for the NFL’s all-star game this season.
Browner’s apparent decision to drop his appeal likely reflects the difficulty in fighting a positive test for a banned substance under the NFL’s agreement. A player is considered responsible for anything in his body, which makes it very difficult to win an appeal without disputing the validity of the test results or showing the substance itself was not actually banned (i.e. the player was permitted to use it).
Thurmond is in his third year with the Seahawks since being chosen in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of Oregon. He began last season as the team’s fifth defensive back, and became a starter in Week 5 after Trufant went on the injured reserve with a back injury. Thurmond started two games before suffering a broken lower leg that ended his season. He reinjured his leg in March, and was still rehabilitating when the season began. He was promoted to the 53-man roster on Nov. 7 and was active for the first time last week.
“I’ve thought all along that we’re very fortunate to have Walter,” Carroll said. “He’s an excellent athlete. He played very well in the past week, so he’ll step right up.”