These are the facts that the NFLPA are willing to tell us about their members: An average NFL career lasts about 3.5 seasons; the average salary a NFL player make is just below two million dollars per year; the average age of an NFL player hovers around the 27 years old mark.
For a while, Brandon Browner was anything but another average NFL player. He entered the league in 2005 but only has three recorded seasons of official play. He became a first-time starter at the age of 29 for the Seattle Seahawks in 2011 and made his mark early with a 94 yard interception return for a touchdown against the New York Giants. Just a year ago he was looking to supplement his tenure in the Pro Bowl and the Legion of Boom with a bigger paycheck. Now it is looking like he will be suspended for a year and possibly never play in the league again.
Just a year ago, around this time of the month we were confronted with the news that Browner and his partner-in-crime Richard Sherman tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. I doubt many in the Seahawks community were ever prepared, or ever will be prepared, to understand the context behind the news. Everybody just wanted to talk about the players and the loss against Miami and the sprinkler going off, and a story such as the one that broke left everybody speechless and helpless.
So we learned. The same thing happened again yesterday, when Twitter leaked the report. You and I might have been surprised by the news that we've learned, but we understood. Yesterday we just wanted to talk about Walter Thurmond III and his replacements. The rest of the week, we just wanted to talk about Walter Thurmond III and his replacements. Now Brandon Browner is suspended. And everyone found their scapegoat and isn't speechless anymore.
When I look back at the drama from last season, I can't help but think that a part of me enjoyed the ride, enjoyed the attention of wandering into uncharted territory and seeing the perspective of being "the villain" of the league. Part of me knew that my favorite team was starting, praising and supporting a potential cheater on their defense. All of me didn't care back then. So why do I care so much now?
It's easy, as a writer, to summarize people in a paragraph. To do it for Brandon Browner would be a disservice and inaccuracy of his life and time with the Seahawks - but how else do you explain the frustration, the anger, the tragedy behind the situation? There is more to Browner than being a starting NFL cornerback, more to him than a father of two and more to him than another drug-related headline and a label that is focused entirely on his mistakes. I know this much.
But I also know that I will probably never understand the rationale for why he did the things he did, will never be able to empathize with surviving professional sports. He probably has a legitimate reason for getting suspended by the NFL, and it's depressing that I will only partially understand why.
Speaking of Brandon Browner as a football player there's also the history behind his rise to stardom. It was Browner who stood out at Oregon State as an All-American and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year but went undrafted in 2005. It was Browner had a great preseason for the Denver Broncos before a forearm injury forced him to leave for the CFL. It was Browner who had tremendous success Calgary Stampedes for four seasons but never stopped looking for a shot in the NFL. It was Browner who perfected that opportunity and comeback story, Browner who violated PED's and Substance Abuse Program multiple times, and it is Browner who wrote himself out of a deserved payday.
At the height of his popularity, Danny O'Neill wrote about him and his trials and tribulations along the way to a Pro Bowl ticket, notably how he struggled to provide for his family as he waved through training camps and workouts:
Arriving in the NFL is one thing; staying there is something else. In Browner's second game, he found himself in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers threw at him. Repeatedly. He was beaten for a touchdown by the Steelers' Mike Wallace for a third-quarter touchdown.
"I felt like I had a bad game in Pitt," Browner said. "People would think I'm out here just giving it all up, but that's part of being a defensive back. You've got to have a short memory."
No one thinks that now.
Like many other players, Brandon Browner had to compete and claw his way into the spotlight of the NFL. In one sense, he was trying to make it; in another, he already did.
There is some silver lining here, I suppose. If the opposite of love is truly indifference, then there should be no question as to what value Browner holds within our hearts based on our reaction. That should be the story, because we're put here, like Browner, with dreams, and we should all get a chance to achieve them. Like other twelves, I am angry at him, I am frustrated and sad and disappointed. And I hate that "Brandon Browner reportedly suspended for a year" had to be written in the first place. Most of all though, I hate that it's evidently true.
But at the same time I am also optimistic and hopeful; even if this suspension is upheld, history has proven that time heals even the deepest wounds, and like many who have traveled the same path before him, Browner will have his shot at redemption. And the fanbase will hopefully be there along the way. Whenever that time comes though, be it in a neon grey jersey or not, I will be cheering for him - just as I did in December when he went nuts on three Cardinals on special teams.