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Browner back, and determined to be even better
A year ago, Brandon Browner’s NFL career included zero regular-season games played and two training-camp stints with the Denver Broncos. And that was in 2005 and 2006.
After one season with the Seahawks, check this resume for the extra-large cornerback who had spent the previous four seasons with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL:
Sixteen starts, with Browner and Marcus Trufant the only cornerbacks in the past five seasons to do that for the Seahawks;
One Pro Bowl berth, making him the fourth corner in franchise history to play in the NFL all-star game – along with the late Dave Brown (1984), Shawn Springs (1998) and Trufant (2007);
Five of his team-high six interceptions coming in the final six games, making him only the fifth player in franchise history to lead the team in his first season – along with Brown (1976), Autry Beamon (1977), Darryl Williams (1996) and Earl Thomas (2010);
Two franchise records – one for the longest interception return, 94 yards for a touchdown that iced the Week 5 upset of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants and broke a 33-year-old record; the other for most interception return yards in a season, 220 to break the record set by Brown in ‘84 (179).
Two franchise records tied – one for returning two picks for scores, the other for intercepting a pass in four consecutive games.
All this after signing a future contract last January and then winning the starting spot on the right side in training camp while Walter Thurmond was sidelined with a high ankle sprain.
“It is absolutely remarkable what Brandon was able to accomplish last year,” Kris Richard, a former cornerback for the Seahawks who now coaches the position, said while shaking his head. “From where he came, to where he was able to go in one season, it’s very good stuff.”
And Browner did it without an offseason to prepare with his new team due to the 136-day lockout. That’s because Browner showed up in shape – mentally and physically – so he could make the most of the opportunity he had waited so long for.
“Last year was pretty affirming, because I knew I could play on this level but no one had given me an opportunity,” he said. “I felt it with these guys when I came and had my workout. I could kind of see it in Pete’s face, like, ‘We may have something here.’ ”
Browner was referring to coach Pete Carroll, but Richard also noticed something special in Browner.
“Last year, Brandon was responsible for preparing himself to be able to come out here and compete on this level,” Richard said. “And we didn’t see him until the end of July, so it was remarkable to see the shape and form he was in. He was head and shoulders above.”
And not just because he’s 6 feet 4.
Browner isn’t just back, as the players moved into Day 2 of Phase 2 in their offseason program on Tuesday, he is determined to be even better this season. And he’s not talking about more honors and accolades for himself.
“I’m the same person,” Browner said. “But I realize we’ve got an opportunity to do some special things here.”
Again, Richard has noticed. “You can see in the limited time we’ve had in our off-the-field drill sessions the kind of effort and intensity and focus that he puts into the small amount of time that we have out here. It’s there. The focus is there. And his intensity is there. And his level of preparation is there.
“So you can see why he was able to come in last year and have the kind of impact he did.”
Browner weighed in at 216 pounds on Monday, a few pounds lighter than he played at last season. But his upper body looks more cut, and he seemed faster in the on-field drills Tuesday.
“I wanted to be a little lighter,” Browner said. “And it’s better weight, most definitely. If I could get down to 205, that would be a dream. But you probably won’t see that. I haven’t seen 205 since college (at Oregon State).”
The corner of the Seahawks’ locker room occupied by the cornerbacks has turned into a crowded house. In addition to Browner’s emergence, rookie Richard Sherman stepped in on the left side after Trufant and Thurmond got season-ending injuries and played well enough to earn all-rookie consideration. Trufant is back, and Thurmond will be eventually. There’s also the versatile and valuable Roy Lewis; Byron Maxwell, a promising sixth-round draft choice last year who was plagued by injuries as a rookie; Chris Maragos, who played in 11 games last season as a dime back and on special teams; Jeremy Lane, who was selected in the sixth round of this year’s draft; as well as the trio Ron Parker, Phillip Adams and Coye Francies.
But the seemingly all-arms/all-legs duo of the 6-4 Browner and 6-3 Sherman give the Seahawks their best chance to compete in a division that now includes Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Early Doucet in Arizona; Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss in San Francisco; and Brian Quick, Danny Amendola and Chris Givens in St. Louis.
The Seahawks’ 2012 schedule also includes matchups with the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys – who ranked second, third, fourth and seventh in passing offense last season.
Bring it on, says the smile that slowly spreads across Browner’s face.
“We’ve got three Pro Bowlers back there,” he said, referring to Thomas and Kam Chancellor – the safeties who joined him in Hawaii. “So the bar is set high. It’s going to be interesting, and fun. Because I love these guys, and anything you love you want to give your best effort to.”