The details remain scant regarding the proposed one-year suspension of Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner. Erroneously reported by the league’s own network as a violation arising from the use of performance enhancing drugs, the suspension arises from the substance-abuse policy.
But a one-year suspension — technically, a permanent banishment with the ability to apply for reinstatement after one year — applies only to players who already were in Stage Three of the substance-abuse program. While no one is talking about the specifics of the Browner case, we have a theory. Or a hypothesis. Or something.
When players are cut by NFL teams, they remain subject to the testing requirements of the substance-abuse policy. If they don’t show for the tests (after all, they’re no longer NFL employees), they become subject to the various steps and stages of the substance-abuse program.
It’s wrong and it’s unfair, but that’s just the way it is, as agreed to by the NFL Players Association.
Browner played for the Broncos in 2005. Cut in 2006, Browner surfaced the following year in the CFL. Unless Browner violated the substance-abuse policy enough times in one-plus year with the Broncos to land in Stage Three, there’s a chance he fell victim to the unfair expectation that players who have been dumped by the NFL still have to submit to NFL-implemented drug tests, and that he returned to the NFL in 2011 with a lifetime membership in Stage Three.
That’s how Stage Three works. Once a guy enters Stage Three, he never gets out. And if he makes one false move while in Stage Three, via a positive test or a failure to show up for a test, he’s done for at least a year.
If that’s what happened with Browner — if he landed in Stage Three because he didn’t show up for drug tests when he wasn’t an NFL employee — his suspension needs to be scrapped. And if the NFL won’t reverse the suspension, Browner needs to load up the legal cannon and aim it at anyone and everyone.