There is a lot of information flying around about the Brandon Browner situation. A lot of the information initially reported has already been proven to be incorrect. I do not want to add to that, so please know from the jump that my intent here is to offer my best understanding of where things are right now, and what the potential outcomes may be. I am not an expert in the law around this or the rules. I have not had personal contact with Browner or the league. I have had contact with a number of people familiar with the situation from a variety of angles, and have done my best to read up on the subject. With all those caveats aside, here is where we stand.
NEAR 100% CONFIDENCE THE FOLLOWING ARE TRUE
– Browner has not been suspended yet
The league has not announced a suspension (they have for Walter Thurmond). Pete Carroll could not comment on it yesterday because a decision has not been announced.
– Browner has not placed on IR yet
There were some reports yesterday that he was placed on IR to make room for the other players the Seahawks signed. That is not the case.
– The league substance abuse program and discipline is separate and distinct from the PED program
Browner’s suspension last year for PEDs plays no role in his reported non-PED violation this year.
– The stages of discipline are as follows for the NFL’s substance abuse process:
If the Medical Director, after consultation with the Medical Advisor, determines in his discretion that a player in Stage One has failed to cooperate with the evaluation process or fails to comply with his Treatment Plan, both the NFL Management Council and the NFLPA shall be notified and the player will be subject to an immediate fine equal to three-seventeenths (3/17) of the amount in Paragraph 5 of the NFL Player Contract.
(a) A fine of four-seventeenths (4/17) of the amount in Paragraph 5 of the NFL Player Contract if the player has successfully completed Stage One; and
(b) A suspension for the period of time to cover four consecutive regular season and post-season (including Pro Bowl, if selected) games without pay if he did not successfully complete Stage One
A player who fails to cooperate with testing, treatment, evaluation or other requirements imposed on him by this policy or fails to comply with his Treatment Plan, both as determined by the Medical Director, or who has a Positive Test, will be banished from the NFL for a minimum period of one calendar year.
– Browner has not been suspended four games under the substance abuse policy yet
This is a big one. If the proposed penalty is one-year, that is a STAGE 3 disciplinary action. That means he at least skipped STAGE 2.
– Browner had at least one violation in his short time with the Broncos
That would have started him in the program at STAGE 1. That stage is not announced publicly, and no suspension is levied.
**UPDATE** Browner may not have had an initial violation. See the section below for details.
– Players skip STAGE 2 if they either fail two tests or do not comply with testing over the course of two years
Browner went to the CFL after playing for the Broncos. The NFL policy states that players that miss tests after entering STAGE 1 will automatically be moved to STAGE 3 even if the was not employed by the NFL anymore. This appears to be what happened with Browner.
– Browner did fail a drug test
This may seem obvious, but it is important to point out. He would not be appealing if he had not failed a test. At a minimum, that means he would be a STAGE 2 offender of the policy, and be subject to a four game suspension plus a fine.
– Teams cannot cut an injured player
Those fans that are upset Seattle has not just cut Browner already may want to know that the team does not have that option.
90% CONFIDENCE THE FOLLOWING ARE TRUE
– Seattle has until Saturday to place Browner on IR
This means the team will have to make a move with him by then, and unless the appeal decision is won, all of this probably is moot. The team may have already decided to move on regardless of the outcome. The fact that they have not placed him on IR already indicates they are leaving themselves open to the possibility he could return.
– Browner’s best case scenario is a four-game suspension
It sounds as if he is challenging the notion that missing a test while in the CFL should not count as a violation, and his new violation should be treated as his second. That would still mean a four-game suspension. The reason I am not closer to 100% confident in this is that I do not know the full breadth of possible outcomes. It may be possible that the whole test is thrown out because he was only being tested due to being in STAGE 3, and he was only in STAGE 3 because he missed tests while in the CFL.
– Players can serve suspensions while injured
This would mean that if Browner won his appeal, but still had to serve a four-game suspension, he could serve it with Thurmond, and still be available for the playoffs if he was healthy and the Seahawks wanted him.
– Browner may have voluntarily joined the substance program out of school to help his draft stock
I had previously written that Browner had to have violated the substance abuse policy during his time with the Broncos in order to have been in the program to begin with. I have since learned it is also possible that he volunteered to enter the program out of school because he had some issues during college that may have scared NFL teams off. Players can voluntarily join the program for reasons such as this. So now, it is possible this would be Browner’s first failed test.
Browner has not been suspended. He is waiting for the outcome of his appeal, with the hope that either his suspension is completely lifted or it is a four-game duration that could be served while he is injured the next four games. His defense is that he is being unfairly disciplined as a STAGE 3 offender due to missed NFL tests while he was in the CFL.