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Brandon Browner to sue the NFL for reinstatement

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Back in mid-December, as the end of the season was approaching and the Playoffs loomed on the horizon, an already-out-due-to-injury Brandon Browner was suspended indefinitely (a year in some reports) by the NFL for violation of the Substance Abuse policy. Ostensibly, Browner recently failed a marijuana drug test, but because he was (allegedly) unknowingly in Stage Three of the NFL's drug program, this triggered a year-long ban.

"We will continue to exhaust all administrative remedies," Browner's agent Peter Schaffer told PFT at the time. "If not successful, we will sue the living daylights out of the league."

I guess the administrative remedies did not work. Browner is now suing the NFL, challenging the decision to uphold his suspension (he appealed and lost). The suit will be accompanied by a motion for preliminary injunction, PFT reports, which will ask the court to allow Browner to become a free agent and allow him to become eligible to practice and play again until the lawsuit is resolved.

"I'm not afraid to fight City Hall," said Shaffer this week. "I've bent over backward to find a way to work something out with the league to make everyone comfortable. I don't understand how the league can ruin someone's career over this fact pattern." ("Fact pattern" is a reference to the fact that Browner (possibly) erroneously landed in Stage Three of the drug program while playing in Canada's CFL.)

"I'll represent Brandon zealously to make sure his career isn't ruined."

This has sort of been my point of view the whole time as well. I get that Browner should be punished for his failed drug test, and it's annoying that he failed another test after being suspended under the league's separate Performance Enhancing Drugs policy last year, but considering the pretty extraordinary circumstances (he lived in another country and didn't play in the NFL and wasn't a part of the NFLPA so the drug tests he was summoned for were subsequently missed) that landed him in Stage Three of the NFL's Drug Abuse Program, a year-long ban is absurdly overkill. Especially because you'd normally have to fail three or more drug tests to even get a mere four-game suspension.

"My job is to protect my player." said Shaffer. "You can use the word ‘blackball' for Brandon. I could get blackballed, too. But I don't care. I'd do it every day of the week."

As PFT's Mike Florio reports, and this sounds like Richard Sherman is involved in his legal defense,...

The lawsuit will be accompanied by an administrative complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming that the NFL's overall approach to players who chronically test positive for marijuana violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. Browner is expected to argue that the NFL at a minimum views players who repeatedly violate the policy as being addicted to marijuana, and that the league's handling of those players violates the duty to provide a reasonable accommodation.

Stand by.

At the very least, it's nice that Browner got paid for the Playoffs and got his Super Bowl ring.