Brandon Browner has L.O.B. inked on his arm, a tribute to his days in Seattle's "Legion of Boom" secondary.
Now, the punishing New England cornerback is looking to tattoo some Seahawks on Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX — even if it means bringing the pain to some of his old buddies, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas. After recently telling ESPN that he'd advise Patriots receivers to go after Sherman's sore elbow and Thomas' injured shoulder, Browner defended that comment this week.
"At the end of the day, there's no hard feelings," he said. "That's like in any game, you have a guy that messes his ankle up and you're going to tackle and make sure you land on his ankle. If a guy messes his shoulder up, then you tackle him and land on his shoulder. That's just a part of the game."
Browner has a special understanding of the darker side of football. He had to sit out the Super Bowl last season, serving a suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He watched from his home in Southern California as his teammates crushed Denver in East Rutherford, N.J.
Even though he didn't get to play in that Super Bowl, Browner got a ring. He's now looking to deny the Seahawks a second one, and is in prime position to do so. He's the bookend to fellow Patriots corner Darrelle Revis, and those two have been key to New England's defensive revival.
"There is not a guy in the league as physical as he is at the cornerback position at the line of scrimmage," Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said of the 6-foot-4, 221-pound Browner. "You have to be aware of his ability to get his hands on you and then stick to you when he does."
That the Seahawks didn't break stride when they lost Browner last season was a remarkable accomplishment. Having served a four-game drug suspension in 2012, he got an indefinite suspension for a similar offense at the end of last season, missing the final two regular-season games and all three postseason games.
In the spring, the NFL defined the ban, announcing it would be lifted after four more games. The Patriots signed Browner as a free agent, deactivating him for two games after his suspension, then moved him into the starting lineup.
"He hasn't missed a beat since he's been back," said New England safety Devin McCourty, who calls this the most complete secondary in his five seasons with the Patriots.
Browner counts his Seahawks teammates among his close friends, and they were quick to laugh off his comments about targeting their injuries.
"I think he was just caught up in the moment," Sherman said. "He didn't mean any malice by it. It's one of those things, we know him as a person and sometimes he exaggerates a little bit.
"Nobody intentionally hurts anybody in this league, that I know of. I think a lot of guys stand for the integrity of the football league and have a lot of respect for one another, and Brandon does as well."
On most other teams, Browner would be the No. 1 corner without question. But he's had the luxury of playing alongside Sherman and Revis, the NFL's two best corners, in consecutive years.
Likewise, he has played for two elite defense-minded head coaches in Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick. Of the differences between the coaches and organizations, Browner said: "Bill is old school, what I grew up on, running after practices. Playing in Seattle, it was a little more loose around there. We would shoot hoops in the meeting room before the meeting would start. On the way to meetings you would hear your favorite music blasting in the hallways. It is two different coaching styles, but at the end of the day they are both, I think, the best in the league."
Originally signed by Denver as a free agent in 2005, Browner played four seasons with the Calgary Stampeders and was part of the team that won the Grey Cup in 2008. He returned to the NFL in 2011, and played three seasons with the Seahawks.
"He was there at the start of it all and to me, it's a really cool story because we knew about him all the way back in his high school days," Carroll said of Browner, who played at Sylmar and Monroe high schools before moving on to Oregon State. "Seeing him come through in our program and do well, it was a shame that we weren't able to maintain it, but that's kind of how this thing goes sometimes."
Browner was impressed by the Seahawks' decision to present him a Super Bowl ring, even though he wasn't eligible to play in the game.
Regardless, he's determined to send Seattle home ring-less this time. Hard hits, yes, but no hard feelings.