Brandon Browner is vigorously fighting his one-year suspension from the league for violations to the NFL's Substance Abuse Policy. According to ESPN's John Clayton, Browner may have a good chance to win his appeal and he's already turned down one potential deal, which points to the idea that Browner has some leverage in the situation with the threat of potential federal litigation.
Here's some background on the situation:
According to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com,
Browner was advanced to Stage 3 of the program for "failure to cooperate," according to a source with knowledge of the situation, for missing a series of drug tests back in 2006 and 2007, when he was in fact out of the league. Sources say Browner claimed he never received any letters notifying him of the missed tests, and, was unaware that he was responsible to continue taking drug tests long after being released by the Broncos and through his time in CFL.
Browner was unaware of the requests for further tests, but it was those missed tests that advanced him deep into the program to the point where he was facing more lengthy suspensions. Browner faced a four-game suspension back in 2007 (he was released by Denver in July of 2006) but many of the letters and other communication were sent to an old address of a former girlfriend.
Obviously, the Seahawks then signed Browner in 2011, but per La Canfora, both the Hawks and Browner were unaware that he was in Phase 3 of the program.
Browner ended up back in the NFL in January of 2011, unaware he was in an advance stage of the drug program, and, according to his official NFL player transaction page, there are no suspensions recorded from his time in Denver. The Seahawks did not know of his status in the program either, upon signing him, sources said, nor did any of the handful of teams who brought Browner in for tryouts prior to him signing in Seattle. Only in August of 2011 did Browner receive a letter from the league notifying him that he was in fact in Stage 3.
Here's where it gets interesting:
Browner was tested roughly 200 times while back in the league, but did not have a positive result until very recently, when he had a small amount of marijuana in his system, according to a source. However, had he not been escalated to Stage 3 for his missed tests when out of the NFL -- if he was in Stage 2, for instance -- two years of clean tests would have be enough to get him out of the program entirely.
The meaning here is that with so many clean tests over two years, in any normal circumstances, Browner would not have even faced suspension for the latest failed test. He'd likely have been given a slap on the wrist, a fine, and put into a more frequent testing process, as a Stage 1 or Stage 2 player would see (generally speaking).
Browner's argument is logical: he should be treated in the same manner as the rest of the players in the NFL in terms of the drug testing process and escalation process for Phase 1 and 2, because his elevation to Phase 3 (and subsequent lifetime membership) was unjust and unwarranted.
Simply put, because of the 200-odd drug free tests over the last two years, Browner maintains he should not be facing the terribly burdensome and overkill year-long ban for this recent failed test, particularly because he was only put into Phase 3 because he was in Canada trying to make a living and get back to the league. The NFL's lax reporting and disclosure of the information to Browner is a big factor too.
As La Canfora points out:
Browner is fighting his one-year suspension vigorously and with his future earning potential as the top corner available in free agency greatly impacted by any suspension, is prepared to sue the league for its handling of how it notifies and handles a player's drug status once he is terminated. That could have potentially huge ramifications for any other players who have experienced a similar set of circumstances while out of the league and failing to miss tests they were unaware of. Many players might naturally assume that once out of the league, they would no longer be subject to testing from a past employer.
ESPN's John Clayton gave an update on the situation on Tuesday, and it looks like some possibly good news for Browner. Said Clayton, per examiner.com:
"I think he has been offered one deal and has turned it down. The one year I think is going to be off the table. But I don't think he settles for anything less than a four-paycheck, no-suspension type of arrangement. If not, I think he takes it to federal court. I think he feels very good about his case."
As for the timelime?
"He had three days of hearings last week, all done by phone, and he's still awaiting a verdict. He's still not anticipating anything very quickly."
This sort of goes along with the Seahawks' decision to cut Perrish Cox a day after signing with him, a move that Pete Carroll said was to wait and see what would happen with Browner. I'm guessing Seattle would have just put the currently injured Browner on the IR if they believed strongly that he would be suspended (to open up a roster spot), so they have to believe Browner's chances at winning the appeal are pretty good.
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