FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Brandon Browner received a Super Bowl ring last year even though he was watching from home 3,000 miles from the Seattle Seahawks when they won the title.
Now the hard-hitting cornerback has a shot at more diamonds and another title, going face-to-face with receivers when the New England Patriots play his former team Sunday.
It’s a matchup Browner craved after missing last season’s Super Bowl while under suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and then signing with the Patriots in March.
“It’s crazy, man,” Browner said. “I really had that vision when I signed here. Hopefully, we’d meet up with my old boys and it happened to work out that way.”
While Seattle was pounding Denver 43-8 in New Jersey to win the championship, Browner watched from his Los Angeles-area home, frustrated he couldn’t be on the field.
His indefinite suspension cost him the last two regular-season games plus three postseason games. In March, the indefinite exile was revised to four more games. Ten days later, he signed with the Patriots. After serving the suspension, he was inactive for two games then took over at cornerback opposite Darrelle Revis.
“He deserves a lot of credit to sit out four games and then come back and fall back right in stride,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “He hasn’t missed a beat since he’s been back.”
At 6-feet-4 and 221 pounds, Browner has a physical style that can intimidate opponents but also hurt the Patriots. He committed 13 penalties while playing in nine regular-season games. But he hasn’t backed off.
“He’s brought an edge to the defense,” McCourty said.
Now he has added incentive, a chance at a second straight NFL title against a team he has no ill feelings for.
“I was blessed and fortunate,” said Browner, who served another four-game suspension in 2012 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. “I was suspended over there and I was still able to get a ring. That was a decision by the coach and the owner to give me that. They didn’t have to.”
Since joining Revis, McCourty and safety Patrick Chung, Browner has solidified an already strong secondary that has great depth with Kyle Arrington, Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.
McCourty said it’s the most complete secondary he’s been part of in five NFL seasons, all with the Patriots
Next up is Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, a constant threat to run who can turn busted plays into critical ones — like his 2-point conversion pass after a scramble in Seattle’s 28-22 win over the Green Bay Packers for the NFC championship.
Browner will try to cover his receiver for as long as it takes to keep Wilson from completing a pass.
“Brandon Browner is a great professional,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said, “a guy that’s very intense, has a great work ethic, really studies hard, has a very competitive side and really wants to try to get everything right.”
Last season, Browner teamed with Seattle’s star cornerback Richard Sherman in what became known as a “Legion of Boom” secondary.
This season he’s partnered with Revis, a cornerback considered by many to be better than Sherman.
“I’m older than Richard,” said the 30-year-old Browner, who spent four years in the CFL with one Grey Cup championship before signing with Seattle in 2011, “I came in starting. Richard was one of the backups. So I couldn’t take too much from him but I’ve always been a fan of Revis’ technique.”
Browner has a different style from both. He’s bigger and more physical, a cornerback in a safety’s or small linebacker’s body.
And he brings another asset, a burning desire to contribute to a Super Bowl champion after missing that opportunity last year.
“It means a lot,” Browner said. “I’m fortunate to be back in this thing the following year with a good football team, and with a bond that I’ve built with these guys like the one I built with the guys over there. It’s a good feeling.”
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