The NFL cleared up the Keith Browner mystery, sort of, Friday morning when it announced it had placed the Charger linebacker on the non-football illness list for 30 days. In effect, Browner is suspended.
"The action was taken," said the league in a prepared release, "after Browner violated provisions of the NFL's substance abuse policy. He has been instructed to remain out of the Chargers' training facility during his period on the non-football illness list. He is not expected to return until Sept. 29."
Browner, who started 15 games at outside linebacker last year, hadn't practiced with the team since Aug. 22. As late as Thursday, Charger Coach Dan Henning hadn't heard from the NFL as to why it was investigating Browner or why the Chargers had been granted a roster exemption on Browner during the investigation.
The NFL usually metes out 30-day suspensions only in the cases of second-time drug or alcohol abuse offenders or first-time steroid offenders. Browner was the 17th player suspended by the NFL this week.
"I'm shocked," said Harold Daniels, Browner's agent. "I didn't know anything about this. Keith Browner has never used drugs to my knowledge. Never. The tests have got to be wrong. I don't believe it."
Daniels said he planned to discuss the suspension with the NFL Players' Assn. to see what "recourse" Browner has in the matter.
Browner lost his starting job this summer when the Chargers acquired inside linebacker Jim Collins from the Rams and moved former defensive end Leslie O'Neal to outside linebacker. But the Charger coaches said Browner was playing well enough to make the final 47-man roster.
Three of Browner's brothers--Jim, Ross and Joey--have played in the NFL. Ross Browner was suspended by the league for four games in 1983 for drug-related reasons. He was a Cincinnati Bengal at the time.
Keith Browner played his college football at USC and was the 30th player selected (Tampa Bay) in the 1984 college draft.