The agent for Brandon Browner says the Seahawks cornerback has no idea how an illegal substance was found in his body. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest
As far as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll knows, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner will play Sunday in Chicago against the Bears. "As of right now?" Carroll said, responding to a question at his press chat Monday afternoon. "Yeah. I'm planning on those guys playing."
What else we know is that the acclaimed anchors of the Seahawks secondary proclaimed their innocence. And we can also speculate that the clumsy drama will persist.
Browner's agent, Peter Schaffer, told Seattle-area reporters Monday by phone that he and his client were notified in the past week by letter from the league office of a positive test for a banned substance. Without speaking specifically of this case, he said an appeals hearing is usually scheduled within 20 days of receipt of the letter, "unless circumstances require them to take longer, the need for evidence experts and the like."
Asked whether the case could linger through the rest of the season, Schaffer couldn't say.
Getting accurate word in the murky NFL world of drug-cheat chasing is difficult, because any NFL official who talks publicly about drug-policy violation cases is subject to a $500,000 fine. But players and agents can issue public denials/excuses/apologies. Schaffer was quick to say his man was not guilty.
“I can tell you that Brandon Browner has no knowledge of how any illegal substance could have gotten into his system," he said. "He is an outstanding person and a very good football player. He takes tremendous care of his body and he is very careful with what he puts into it.
"We’re exploring all avenues to try and figure out how any substance out of the ordinary would be in his system.”
With Sherman having claimed innocence as well Sunday night on his Twitter account, we have an awkward public stalemate, brought about because the news was leaked between notification and appeal, instead of after both, as is customary.
ESPN.com reported the news Sunday after the Seahawks left Miami, citing league sources. If someone wanted to complicate the Seahawks lives just a little by leaking the story, he succeeded.
Mindful of NFL rules, Carroll spent the first few minutes Monday parrying questions from reporters before calling a halt.
"Let me do it this way because it's so important that we do this properly," Carroll said. "I'm not going to comment about anything about it. That's the best way to do this. These are league issues, and at this point, I'm just going to keep it there. I hope that you can respect that's the way we have to do it, and we'll talk about it later on in a general, broader sense when we can."
Carroll, a man having enough problems explaining how the Seahawks gave up 17 points in the final eight minutes of Sunday's 24-21 loss in Miami, was eager to get the drug drama behind him. Unfortunately for him, thanks to the leak without accompanying resolution, it will be dangling in front of him for what could be the rest of the season.
Carroll has managed far more difficult matters -- seeing ex-USC Trojan Reggie Bush Sunday playing for the Dolphins called one to mind -- and the NFL has provided him cover with the threat of a big fine. But that doesn't mean he can go in and clear the minds of Sherman, Browner and their teammates who rightly wonder if this is going to be on the field with them the next five Sundays, and perhaps beyond.
And unlike distractions in college ball, the distractions in pro ball are more difficult to manage because the level of competition is so much higher and the margins so much smaller. The Seahawks' five losses on the road have been by a touchdown or less.
"I can't imagine if anybody has been in more close games on the road than we've been in," he said. "We're close enough that we know the things that are there for us."
Actually, a fair number of other teams have had cruel losses on the road -- ask Green Bay (14-12) and New England (24-23) how they're feeling about their visits to Seattle.
The point is the Seahawks and most teams are operating on thin margins each Sunday, so the unresolved mystery surrounding two higher-profile players is a nuisance that is at minimum unhelpful.
And since there will be no planned public disclosure of evidence, no one is going to know for certain about guilt or innocence, just suspension or no suspension.
Whatever Browner or Sherman did or didn't do, they are now subject to public scrutiny and criticism. To paraphrase Sherman's famous question post-game to defeated Patriots quarterback Tom Brady:
I'd be mad, bro.
UPDATE: USA Today reported Monday night that Sherman, according to a source, is claiming he drank from the bottle of a teammate that contained a crushed Adderall pill, a stimulant banned by the NFL without a doctor's precription. The unnamed teammate had a prescription.
Quoting another unnamed source who knew of Browner's situation, the story said the player claims the officials who performed the test did not follow proper protocol and that he saw one of the officials pour urine from one container into another.
According to the person with knowledge of Sherman's defense, Browner is in the NFL's substance-abuse program because of an undisclosed incident while he was with the Denver Broncos in 2005. He returned to the NFL after five years in the CFL and was reinstated into the program. His awareness of the risk is part of the argument that he would never knowingly take a banned substance.