August 23, 2011 in Sports

Seahawks’ long shots turn heads

Seattle Times
 

SEATTLE – Cornerback Brandon Browner and safety Josh Pinkard overcame long odds to get here.

They can no longer be considered long shots to make Seattle’s roster, though. And that is truly remarkable, considering how far these two have come.

Browner spent the past four seasons in the Canadian Football League while Pinkard spent most of 2010 coming back from the third torn knee ligament he suffered while at USC.

“It has been long, you know,” Pinkard said, “but it’s always about the journey, they say.”

And by that criteria, Browner might have everyone on Seattle’s roster trumped after playing the last four years for the Calgary Stampeders. In the CFL, the field is longer, the end zone is 10 yards deeper and there are a dozen players on the field for each team.

“I was up there for four years, trying to get back every single season,” Browner said.

They are two of Seattle’s training-camp discoveries that followed the NFL’s unprecedented offseason. Browner is the 6-foot-4 cornerback who towers over many receivers while Pinkard is the safety with a cornerback’s ball skills.

Neither arrived with all that much in the way of expectations, but halfway through Seattle’s exhibition schedule they look capable of helping a secondary that has been one of the Seahawks’ primary concerns. Seattle has ranked No. 27 or worse in the NFL in pass yards allowed the past three seasons.

There were no sweeping changes to the defensive backfield this offseason. At least not like what happened with the offense. Seattle drafted two cornerbacks and one safety, but all were chosen in the fifth round or later. The Seahawks re-signed cornerback Kelly Jennings and opted not to bring back starting strong safety Lawyer Milloy, who ranked fourth on the team with 61 solo tackles.

The Seahawks’ plan was to accumulate a pile of interesting prospects with special traits and see who emerged from the pile, and so far Browner and Pinkard have made the most of that chance.

Pinkard forced Minnesota’s fourth-quarter fumble in last Saturday’s exhibition game, knocking the ball through the back of the end zone for the turnover that saved Seattle’s chance at a comeback. That was a glimpse of a playmaking trait that is difficult to describe and impossible to fake.

“He has a knack for the ball,” Seattle secondary coach Kris Richard said.

Pinkard suffered season-ending knee injuries in 2006, 2007 and in December 2009 in his final year of eligibility after being granted a medical redshirt. He signed with Seattle as an undrafted free agent, began last season on the physically unable to perform list and finished on the practice squad.

“It was very meaningful knowing that he would take a chance on me,” Pinkard said of coach Pete Carroll. “He and the Seattle Seahawks organization, knowing that I’ve come back from injury before and been able to play. It was a great opportunity, and I just try to take full advantage of it.”

Browner, 27, entered the NFL draft in 2005 after his redshirt sophomore season at Oregon State. He was undrafted, went to training camp with the Denver Broncos, who tried to turn him into a safety, and spent the year on injured reserve after suffering a broken forearm in August. He played the past four seasons for Calgary, while being named a CFL All-Star three times.

In two exhibition games, Browner has shown an ability to get up on the line, jam opposing receivers and stay stride for stride. Browner is playing right cornerback behind Walter Thurmond and Jennings.

“He’s very savvy,” Carroll said of Browner. “He’s very comfortable, and he’s a big, big man. He causes problems for receivers.”

And with the way Browner and Pinkard have played the past three weeks, it’s becoming tougher to envision a regular-season roster that doesn’t include them.


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