FOXBOROUGH — Brandon Browner is going to fit in well with the Patriots. He has interesting stories to tell — and he’s doing his best not to reveal anything about them.
For instance, Browner, a key member of the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary for the last three seasons, recently met the president. Despite leaving Seattle for New England this offseason, Browner was invited to visit the White House last week by his former team as President Obama congratulated the Seahawks for their Super Bowl victory.
Not many people get to visit the White House and meet the president on national TV. But when asked about it, Browner’s didn’t reveal much.
“It was a great experience to meet the president, look around the White House a little bit,” was all he offered up after Friday’s organized team activity.
His football backstory, too, is fascinating. He was named a Pro Bowler in 2011, but only after spending four seasons in the Canadian Football League. He didn’t start his first NFL game until he was 27. Just don’t expect him to wax poetic about his journey from the CFL to the Seahawks to getting a three-year, $15.15 million contract with the Patriots.
“That’s in the past, man,” he said after the Patriots wrapped up their first week of full team practices this spring. “It’s still football, man. It’s fun. Football has been the same, X’s and O’s, since I was a little kid.”
And Browner has opinions on marijuana and the NFL’s drug policy. He just chooses not to share them now that he’s trying to win over new coaches and teammates.
“I’m fortunate to be playing football, and what’s happened in the past is in the past,” said Browner, who turns 30 in August.
We know that Browner liked living in Washington state, where marijuana is now legal. But it’s not legal in the NFL, and Browner will serve a four-game suspension to start the 2014 season because of his affinity for it. The story behind the suspension is compelling, but Browner, naturally, won’t tell it.
Last November he tested positive for marijuana, which typically would draw a two- or four-game suspension.
But this was Browner’s third strike in the eyes of the NFL, and the league handed down an indefinite suspension. Browner’s first two strikes came between 2007-10, when he was playing in Canada and didn’t take NFL-administered drug tests. Skipping a test is akin to failing a test in the NFL, so when he tested positive again last fall, it wasn’t technically his first offense. Browner was suspended indefinitely after eight games, and was forced to watch the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run from home.
Browner, who also earned a four-game suspension in 2012 for performance enhancing drugs, still hears from Seahawks fans who call him selfish for not being able to lay off weed and earning his suspension.
“Your favorite player smokes,” Browner told fans on Twitter last week. “Everyone has skeletons in there closeted [sic] some are just better at hiding them.”
But Browner and his agent threatened to sue the NFL over the suspension, and surprisingly, the NFL agreed that the punishment didn’t quite fit the crime. In March, Browner’s suspension was reduced to four games, plus an additional four-game fine. But he was reinstated immediately, can play in 12 games this fall (and get paid for eight), and participate with the Patriots during OTAs and training camp. He’ll be allowed to hang out at the Patriots’ facility during his suspension, but obviously can’t practice or play.
“My situation last year was unfortunate, but like I said, I’m happy to be out here,” Browner said. “I’m blessed to be able to play.”
When he gets in front of microphones, though, Browner doesn’t offer much insight into his past life or his play on the field.
Does Browner think the drug policy is too harsh?
“That’s in the past, man,” he said.
Does Browner think it’s fair that he gets lumped in as a “problem child” with players who have drunk driving arrests and domestic violence incidents?
“I don’t care what nobody thinks,” he said. “That’s in the past, and I look forward to playing for the Patriots.”
Has he or Darrelle Revis taken a leadership role yet?
“There’s no leaders right now,” Browner said. “We all hold our own. We’re going to push each other.”
Does he like facing Tom Brady in practice?
“He’ll get us better,” he said. “It will be fun.”
Yup, he’ll fit in perfectly in Foxborough. So, too, will his new running mate. Revis was never afraid to speak his mind in New York, where he seemingly held out for a new contract every offseason. But he’s quickly falling in line in New England, where he’s afraid to answer even the most mundane questions, such as, “What have you learned about Brandon Browner?”
“I don’t know, man,” Revis said. “I’m too busy with so much stuff on my plate. You’ve got to speak to Brandon about that.”
That’s OK if they don’t want to talk, of course. Browner and Revis were brought here to turn the Patriots into a heavy-hitting, bump-and-run defense, not to complain about the NFL’s drug policy or tell us stories about meeting the president. Browner is the biggest cornerback in the NFL at 6 feet 4 inches and 220 pounds, has 10 interceptions the last three years, and he can help cover tight ends as well as tall receivers.
The Patriots have never had a physical specimen at cornerback like they have with Browner. The four-game suspension might even be useful — he’ll get a nice break after training camp to rest his body and prepare for the final 12 weeks.
Just don’t ask Browner to say much about it.
“I think we got a great group here,” he said. “With the additions of Revis, [Devin] McCourty is a great football player and the young guys we have here, we should be good.”Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin