Seahawks’ Browner suspended four games


RENTON, Wash. — The Seattle Seahawks are about to find out how much losing at least one of their top cornerbacks means to their defense.

Brandon Browner has dropped the appeal of his suspension for using performance-enhancing substances and will miss the final four games of the regular season, the league announced Wednesday.

Browner’s loss leaves the Seahawks without a Pro Bowl cornerback whose size and physical play has flustered wide receivers for much of the past two seasons. Walter Thurmond, who was a starter for a short time during the 2011 season before suffering a leg injury, will take Browner’s spot.

Browner will be eligible to rejoin the team on Dec. 31 and will be able to play in the postseason should the Seahawks make the playoffs.

“I’ve thought all along that we are very fortunate to have Walter with some background that has started for us in the past,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s an excellent athlete. He played very well for us this last week, and he’ll step right up into that mode.”

News broke after Seattle’s loss at Miami on Nov. 25 that Browner and fellow starting cornerback Richard Sherman were facing suspensions after testing positive for PEDs.

A day later, Browner’s agent, Peter Schaffer, said his client had no knowledge of how any banned substance got into his system, but he did not provide specifics on when an appeal might take place.

Messages left for Schaffer on Wednesday were not immediately returned. Sherman is going forward with his appeal, and he can play while that is under way.

“I’m still not commenting about it, but I’m disappointed when we lose anybody by injury or whatever. These guys work so hard to be here and all of that, and you come to rely on guys, and when you lose guys it’s always disappointing,” Carroll said. “But really where the focus goes for us is right to the guys who are stepping up.”

Browner has 44 tackles, three interceptions and six passes defensed this season. He is in his second season with the Seahawks after getting pulled from the Canadian Football League because he fit the mold of what Carroll wants: big, physical cornerbacks who can play man coverage.

He was voted as a Pro Bowl alternate in his first NFL season and ended up playing in the game. Last season, he had 54 tackles and six interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

Browner is the fourth Seahawks player to be suspended for a PED violation in the past calendar year, joining John Moffitt, Allen Barbre and Winston Guy.

“I’ve been disappointed about the whole situation, that it is something that he had to deal with it and we had to deal with it, but there is nothing we can do at this point,” Carroll said.

Vikings place wideout Harvin on injured reserve

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings placed ailing wide receiver Percy Harvin on injured reserve Wednesday, abruptly ending a season that began so well for one of the NFL’s most versatile players.

Coach Leslie Frazier answered questions about Harvin’s status cryptically and vaguely at his regular news conference, when he ruled Harvin out of practice again because of the severely sprained ankle that has kept him out of the last three games. Then about six hours later, the Vikings announced the move that declared their top pass-catcher done for the year.

During an outstanding first half that put him in the conversation for the league’s Most Valuable Player award, Harvin’s season sure deteriorated quickly. He was hurt one month ago. Now this.

Even bad sprains don’t normally take more than four to six weeks to fully heal, so it’s possible the injury is worse than originally revealed, perhaps requiring surgery.

Neither team officials nor players were available for comment on the decision.

Harvin was injured Nov. 4 at Seattle, leaving briefly in the third quarter of that game but returning with an obvious limp.

He has missed three games since and only taken part in practice once since the injury, a week ago as a limited participant.

In nine games, Harvin finished with 677 yards and three touchdowns on 62 receptions, 22 rushes for 96 yards and one score, and one kickoff return for a touchdown.

Packers bring back Grant to shore up running game

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Running back Ryan Grant is back with the Green Bay Packers.

The veteran was signed Wednesday to add depth to Green Bay’s banged up running backs. The Packers announced last week that Cedric Benson would stay on injured reserve with a foot injury, and Johnny White was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a concussion. There are also multiple reports that James Starks was hurt in Sunday’s victory over Minnesota, when he ran for a team-high 66 yards and scored Green Bay’s third rushing touchdown.

Grant is fifth on Green Bay’s all-time rushing list, running for 4,016 yards and 25 touchdowns from 2007-11. He was not re-signed in the offseason and was picked up by Washington on Sept. 26. He played one game before being released Oct. 23.

After “positive” day, Roethlisberger nears return

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned to practice on Wednesday and appears on track to return this weekend against San Diego.

Roethlisberger hasn’t played since spraining his right shoulder and dislocating a rib in a 16-13 overtime victory over Kansas City on Nov. 12. He was limited in practice but coach Mike Tomlin was encouraged by Roethlisberger’s performance.

Tomlin called it a “positive” day for his franchise quarterback but isn’t quite ready to say Roethlisberger is ready to start against the reeling Chargers (4-8). Roethlisberger will throw again on Thursday, and barring any setbacks he likely will be back in the lineup as Pittsburgh (7-5) tries to stay in the thick of the AFC playoff race.

The Steelers went 1-2 in Roethlisberger’s absence, though the victory came in a rousing 23-20 win at rival Baltimore last Sunday behind veteran backup Charlie Batch.

Jets sticking with embattled Sanchez at quarterback

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Rex Ryan gathered his three quarterbacks Wednesday morning and told them he had made up his mind.

He’s sticking with Mark Sanchez.

The New York Jets coach spent two days weighing his options after benching Sanchez last Sunday against Arizona, talking to as many people within the organization as he could before settling on his quarterback.

“I have to get this decision right,” Ryan said, “and I believe I have.”

So, it will be Sanchez and not Greg McElroy or Tim Tebow on Sunday when the Jets take on the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

“It’s really a decision I feel great about,” Ryan said.

Sanchez was pulled late in the third quarter against Arizona, and McElroy led the Jets to the only touchdown of the game on his first NFL drive and helped New York to a 7-6 victory. Sanchez was 10-of-21 for 97 yards and three interceptions, while McElroy was 5-of-7 for 29 yards and the score.

Texans sign cornerback Routt, put McCain on injured reserve

HOUSTON — The Houston Texans have signed veteran cornerback Stanford Routt after placing Brice McCain on injured reserve with a designation for return.

Routt started seven games this season for the Chiefs before he was released on Nov. 5.

McCain, Houston’s nickel cornerback, had surgery to repair a broken left foot Monday. He must sit out eight weeks.

Houston needed depth at the position because of McCain’s injury and the uncertain status of Johnathan Joseph, the Texans’ top cornerback who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.

Routt, who went to college at Houston, has 258 tackles and 12 interceptions in an eight-year career spent mostly in Oakland.

Ravens’ LB Suggs to be a game-time decision

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs hopes a torn right biceps won’t keep him out of Sunday’s game against Washington. He says his status won’t be determined for sure until late in the week.

Suggs was hurt last Sunday in the fourth quarter of a 23-20 loss to Pittsburgh. Before practice Wednesday, Suggs said, “We got to see how it goes. We kind of live by the creed of, if you can breathe, then you can play.”

He says his availability will be “a game-time decision.”

Another injured Ravens linebacker, Ray Lewis, returned to practice Wednesday — the latest step in his attempt to come back from a torn right triceps. Lewis was hurt Oct. 14 against Dallas.

Lewis will not play for Baltimore (9-3) against the Redskins (6-6).

McCarthy says Woodson close to returning

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Charles Woodson was back at practice on a limited basis Wednesday, and Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy says the defensive back’s return from a broken collarbone is “getting close.”

Woodson has missed the last five games after breaking his collarbone against St. Louis. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Monday that the perennial Pro Bowler had been running routes again, but Monday was the first time he was listed as doing anything in practice on the injury report. McCarthy called it a “good start,” and says it was “great” to have Woodson back. McCarthy says Woodson will continue to be evaluated as the week goes on.