RENTON, Wash. – Seattle’s Brandon Browner knew this was probably going to be his last shot.
Six teams had given him tryouts over the last three years and no one had offered him an invite to training camp. The three-time Canadian Football League All-Star was getting to the point where he thought he may never get that second chance to play in the NFL.
“I really felt like it was really the end of it for me,” Browner said. “I thought maybe I’d be stuck in the CFL and I thought if I didn’t get a chance here, give up and think of plans elsewhere.”
Browner had gone undrafted in 2005 and signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos. A broken arm ended his rookie season and he was let go the following season and forced to head to Calgary for a job.
At 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds, Browner doesn’t look the part of a cornerback. It’s likely the biggest reason why it took him five years to get another chance.
After five seasons in Canada, the Seahawks finally gave him a shot. Seattle signed him to a futures contract in January and he began to open the team’s eyes during training camp. Paired with rookie Richard Sherman, he’s part of a cornerback tandem that affects opposing offenses.
Browner has four interceptions in the Seahawks’ last three games. He has five interceptions on the season – the most by a Seahawks defender since Marcus Trufant had seven in 2007.
“He’s playing Pro Bowl-caliber football right now,” Sherman said earlier this week. “It’s sad that it’s going unnoticed.”
Even at the level he’s playing, Browner knows he has still has room to improve. Browner has been one of the most penalized players in the league and will occasionally get beat for big plays.
With the Seahawks holding a 23-6 lead midway through the third quarter last Monday night against St. Louis, Rams receiver Brandon Lloyd beat Browner on a double move for 37 yards. St. Louis capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Steven Jackson to briefly get the Rams back in the game. Seattle eventually won 30-13.
Browner was hard on himself afterward because it was similar to a play he allowed against the Redskins two weeks prior. Washington faced a third-and-19 trailing by three points in the fourth quarter and Browner allowed Anthony Armstrong to get behind him for a 50-yard touchdown in a game Seattle lost 23-17.
“That double move that he (Lloyd) gave me, that should never happen,” Browner said. “That’s like what happened to me against Washington toward the end of the game. We’re up man, I’ve got to play off. I’ve got to play for the deep route. I’m trying to take away every route. I’m out there competing with Brandon Lloyd and I get caught up with the one-on-one battle and I just got to be smart and just play off these guys. Maybe go steal me an interception or something.”
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said they didn’t have to say anything to Browner about the play. He was already beating himself up over it.
“He took it hard because I think he felt like he let his teammates down,” Bradley said. “He hurt in that aspect, but he’s got a short memory. He bounced back now quick.
“He’s played solid. We get on him at times for the penalties and how aggressive he is, but other times we’re applauding him for how aggressive he is. He’s done a good job.”
The Seahawks are 4-1 in their last five games. Seattle still has an outside shot at the playoffs if it can win its final three games and get some help from other teams in the hunt.
For Browner, the recent team success coupled with what he’s been able to accomplish so far this season is still somewhat surreal. From wondering if football was still in the cards for him as a career to beginning to make a name for himself with an improving young NFL team, Browner is proving he’s right where he belongs.
“Just today I was sitting back and looking back like, ‘Man, I’m here. I’m where I want to be.’ It’s cool to see the Seahawk logo on the helmet,” he said. “It’s real.”