RENTON — The season, and probably the Seahawks career, of cornerback Brandon Browner is over after the NFL announced Thursday he has been suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Browner was initially reported as being suspended for a year in late November for a violation of the policy for using non-performance enhancing drugs, which sources said was marijuana. Browner was eligible for the lengthy suspension because the NFL regarded him as a Stage 3 offender of its drug program after he had had an initial positive test while playing for Denver in 2005. Browner had reportedly missed a few tests while playing in the Canadian Football League from 2007-10.
Browner appealed the suspension, saying he hadn’t been informed of the tests he had missed.
He reportedly turned down a deal of an eight-game suspension offered by the NFL in an attempt to be cleared. NFL.com reported that the NFL turned down the appeal Wednesday because it determined it had indeed informed Browner in writing of the tests.
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Browner remained on Seattle’s active roster during the appeal process, but hadn’t played since a Nov. 10 game at Atlanta due to a groin injury.
NFL.com reported that Browner will be suspended for at least a year, with the ability to appeal once that time passes. However, one league source said he might be able to appeal earlier.
Browner, in a statement released through Twitter, said he will continue to fight the decision.
“Although I disagree with the circumstances surrounding my suspension, I accept responsibility for all of my actions and I apologize for any that causes any unflattering reflections of my family and the Seahawks,” he wrote. “I believe in my innocence and will continue to fight with all legal resources available to me.”
His agent, Peter Schaffer, tweeted more defiantly that like Revolutionary War admiral J.P. Jones “I have not yet begun to fight.” There have been earlier reports that Browner might consider suing the NFL, also charging that his test was tainted because the urine collector used a damaged cup.
Walter Thurmond replaced Browner for Seattle’s win against Minnesota but was then suspended for violating the substance-abuse policy, also said to be for marijuana. He has missed the last three games but will return for the regular-season finale next week.
Byron Maxwell has started in place of Thurmond and has thrived, picking off three passes, two in Sunday’s 23-0 win over the Giants. Jeremy Lane has also seen increased time and played well, and coach Pete Carroll, in comments Wednesday before the news of the suspension broke, said there was no guarantee Browner would regain his starting job.
“It’s a big, great question and one of you would probably ask that question a week from now if he was back,” Carroll said. “Byron has done a great job. He’s just made it through and he’s done a great job of playing. That Wally Pipp story comes to life sometimes and I’m thrilled about what Byron has done. He’s been such an impact player for us.”
Seattle, in fact, has proved it can win without Browner, who has missed 10 games the last two seasons, including four at the end of the 2012 regular season when he was suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Seattle is 9-1 in those games, including 5-1 this season (he missed the first two games of this season and the last four due to injury).
Browner joined the Seahawks in 2011 as a free agent after four years in the Canadian Football League, and was named to the Pro Bowl his first season, becoming a key member of the self-named Legion of Boom secondary. He started eight games this season after missing the first two with a hamstring injury, making 19 tackles and one interception.
Browner, who is 29, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, leaving his NFL future uncertain.
He was due to make $773,756 this season, but will not be paid for the final two regular-season games and also forfeit other possible bonuses.
In his statement, Browner appeared to be saying goodbye to the Seahawks and Seattle.
“I have been treated with nothing but first class by everyone associated with the Seattle Seahawks and for that I am forever grateful,” he wrote.
• Receiver Percy Harvin, who has not played since Nov. 17 against Minnesota, did not practice Wednesday and Carroll said it was unclear when he would, leaving his status for this week’s game hazy.
Bob Condotta: 206-464-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.