Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner has been reinstated by the NFL, but his suspension isn't over.
Browner, who can become a free agent next week, will serve a four-game suspension to start the 2014 season and forfeit an additional four game checks as part of a settlement reached with the league, the NFL and NFL Players Association announced in a joint statement Wednesday afternoon.
The statement said the sides "have agreed to conditionally reinstate" Browner, who will be allowed to sign with a team and participate in all preseason activities and can become eligible to play in Week 5 if he complies with the terms of the substance-abuse program.
Browner, 29, already missed the last two games of the 2013 regular season plus the Seahawks' three playoff games on their way to a win in Super Bowl XLVIII after the NFL suspended him indefinitely Dec. 18 for violating the substance-abuse policy.
Last week, Browner's agent, Peter Schaffer, said he planned to sue the NFL to lift the ban, claiming Browner was unfairly moved from Stage One to Stage Three of the substance-abuse policy for failing to cooperate with three tests while he was out of the league in 2006.
Instead, the sides reached a deal that could have Browner back in uniform by October. Had the original suspension stood, the soonest he could have applied for reinstatement was Dec. 18, 2014, effectively sidelining him for a full season and perhaps ending his career.
ARMOUR: Browner's suspension dubious (Jan. 29)
"I realize now more than ever that being part of the NFL is not a right, but a privilege," Browner said in a statement posted on his Twitter account Tuesday.
"I am grateful that Commissioner (Roger) Goodell and my agent (Peter Schaffer) were able to resolve this issue in a positive, productive manner so I can continue my career, provide for my family, and help my team win a Super Bowl.
"Thank you to all who have gone out of their way to show their support. I will live up to your expectations of me."
A Pro Bowl pick in 2011, Browner admits he failed two drug tests for marijuana, including one in December. But he told USA TODAY Sports in an interview before the Super Bowl he felt the enforcement of the policy was unfair and the league never offered him support.
"It totally sucks," Browner said then. "If (you thought) I had a problem, you should be helping me."
The end result is what Browner wanted anyway: he'll hit the free-agent market March 11.
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