SEATTLE — Seattle Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond has been suspended four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, adding to Seattle’s challenge against New Orleans, the No. 2-ranked passing offense in the NFL, next Monday.
The Seahawks are playing without starting cornerback Brandon Browner, out four to six weeks with a groin injury suffered in a win at Atlanta Nov. 10.
Thurmond started in place of Browner for Seattle’s 41-20 win over Minnesota on Nov. 17, punctuating the victory with his first interception, which he returned 29 yards for a touchdown.
Then came reports Sunday — during Seattle’s bye week — that Thurmond had been suspended. According to NFL.com, Thurmond planned to appeal the suspension, but plans to drop it early in the week so he would be available for playoff games. Seattle has five regular-season games remaining, beginning with a game against the Saints at 5:40 p.m. next Monday at CenturyLink Field.
The game could go a long way toward deciding home-field advantage in the NFC. The Seahawks are 10-1, the best record in the NFL, and New Orleans is 9-2, led by quarterback Drew Brees and a passing offense averaging 317.3 yards per game.
The Seahawks had no comment on the news.
If he is indeed suspended, Thurmond would be the seventh Seahawks player since 2010 to serve a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Vai Taua, John Moffitt, Allen Barbre, Winston Guy, Browner and Bruce Irvin all were suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. Thurmond was reportedly cited for non-performance enhancing drugs. Cornerback Richard Sherman also had an initial test for a banned drug last season but had his suspension overturned.
Without Thurmond and Browner, Seattle has three healthy cornerbacks on its active roster — Sherman, Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane.
Maxwell would likely move into the starting lineup with Lane taking over nickel cornerback duties.
Seattle has one cornerback on its practice squad, DeShawn Shead, and could activate him to take Thurmond’s spot on the roster. It was reported earlier this year that Shead had agreed to a deal paying him $8,500 a week rather than the minimum $6,000 for a practice-squad player as an inducement to keep him with the Seahawks.
Seattle has not put Browner on injured reserve, which would make him ineligible to play for the rest of the year, hoping he will be healthy for the playoffs.
Rookie fourth-round pick Tharold Simon is expected to begin practice this week. He has been out since spring while rehabbing a foot injury. He could be an option, as well, though he had not been expected to play this season.
It is the second straight season Seattle has been hit with a suspension of a cornerback. TheSeahawks played the last four games of 2012 without Browner after he suspended for PED use, something Sherman recalled in comments he made this morning on FOX Football Daily.
If Thurmond sits out the next four games, he will miss contests against New Orleans, at San Francisco, the New York Giants and Arizona, but could return for the final home game against the Rams on Dec. 29.
Thurmond was penalized via what is a structured NFL drug testing program in which players are routinely subject to random tests for both PEDs and other banned drugs.
Several Seattle players voiced support for Thurmond on Twitter.
That included this tweet from Irvin that referenced his suspension earlier this year: “Still behind you @WaltThurm3 Believe we will hold it down just like y’all did when I was gone! #nextmanup”
Thurmond is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, as is Browner, and Seattle appears unlikely to be able to keep both given the restrictions of the salary cap and decisions the team will have to make regarding other players.