WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Happy birthday, Brandon Browner.
You’re turning 31 on Sunday, making you one of the older cornerbacks in the NFL, and you are the oldest player in the Saints’ secondary
At 6-foot-4, 221 pounds, you’re one of the largest cornerbacks in the league, and you’re the tallest and heaviest of the 15 defensive backs on the Saints training camp roster.
You’ve got back-to-back Super Bowl rings, with Seattle in 2013 and New England in 2014. That’s nice.
But you’ve also had back-to-back drug suspensions in 2012, 2013 and 2014, which cost you 12 regular-season games plus the Seahawks’ championship run. That’s not so nice.
In fact, with suspensions, injuries, being on the inactive list and spending four seasons in Canada, you’ve played in only 45 regular-season games.
Fellow Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis, a close friend and teammate at Oregon State, is two years younger than you. But Lewis has 77 regular-season games under his belt and has played every game for the past four seasons.
But your spotty history didn’t deter the Saints from signing you to a three-year, $15 million contract earlier this year when the Patriots did not pick up your option.
They aren’t even talking much about your past behavior or why they feel it’s behind you — if indeed they do.
“Absolutely,” Saints coach Sean Payton said when asked Saturday about the team’s confidence in you staying clean. “Shoot, he just won a Super Bowl, played well for a year and he’s been fantastic. He is a real good leader for us, a good addition, very competitive. Yeah, we are excited he signed with us.”
We’re not quite sure how winning a Super Bowl is proof that you’ve cleaned up your act.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter.
You said Saturday, Brandon, that you didn’t have to prove to the Saints that you’d put his issues behind him.
“I didn’t have to convince them of anything,” you said.
“I was a free agent and one of the guys they wanted to sign. I was happy to come here just like I was in New England last year. The Saints organization was the best fit for me.”
Indeed the Saints needed a cornerback like you who can play man coverage, pound big receivers and create turnovers.
You’re a guy who made the Pro Bowl in 2011, your first year in the league, and you were a founding member of the Legion of Boom.
Last year at New England, you played opposite Darrelle Revis, and the Patriots ranked second in the league in takeaway margin at plus-12. That’s not counting the end of Super Bowl XLIX, when you jammed Seattle’s Jermaine Kearse at the line, allowing Malcolm Butler to break for the ball and make the game-clinching interception.
The Saints were next-to-last in takeaway margin at minus-13.
Lewis marvels at your hands, saying they’re better than Floyd Mayweather’s.
“I’m always asking him how I can improve my technique,” Lewis said. “I think he’s the best in the league at using his hands.”
Lewis and the other Saints also admire you for the self-assuredness you bring to the team.
Most players would express disappointment about being let go from a Super Bowl champion after just one season, especially since Revis also departed.
Not you, Brandon.
“It’s a business,” you said. “When they asked me to take a pay cut (actually it was avoiding a $1.9 million option pickup that carried a $4.8 million cap hit), it was time to get up and out of there.”
The Patriots also merely mailed you your Super Bowl ring, albeit with a handwritten letter from owner Robert Kraft.
Still, it could be interesting when New England comes here in three weeks to practice for two days before the teams go on to New Orleans for their Aug. 22 exhibition game.
But again, Brandon, you deferred.
“I’m just trying to get myself better,” you said. “I’m also trying to help the other guys so we can all grow up together. I’m not much of a vocal leader, but when I have something to say, I’ll say it.”
Your birthday should be a quiet one, not that there’s many opportunities to get into trouble around here.
The Saints have two-a-days Sunday and Monday, meaning an early curfew the night before.
“Since I was a kid, my birthday fell during football season,” you said. “So I’ll do like I’ve always done and party on the field.”
Like the Saints, we’ll take you at your word.
So have fun on the field. And be good off it.