Browner, who has 21 flags in 13 games this season, trails the all-time high of 22 set by Houston Texans tackle Chester Pitts in 2003. Officials surprisingly flagged Browner only three times in the Saints’ 41-38 loss to the Carolina Panthers last Sunday, essentially assuring the most penalized player in the league will break the record.
“Should Browner get flagged…when Browner gets flagged during this Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay, the NFL has plans to commemorate his history-making accomplishment. We’re thrilled for a Saints player to get this record,” NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello said.
According to Aiello, should Browner tie and then break Pitts’ record, officials are instructed to halt the game for up to a minute, allowing time for proper recognition of the achievement. Aiello added that the record-breaking flag will be sent to the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio for enshrinement.
Buccaneers Communications Director Nelson Luis said the team is considering handing out free yellow penalty flags to every fan at the game to throw on the field after the record-breaking foul.
As for Browner, he said he’s trying not to think about the record – knowing that it’ll come at some point this season. Instead, he’s focusing on the Bucs and how to properly hold or interfere with their receivers come Sunday.
“I didn’t set out this season with the record in mind. I just let it come naturally. If it happens it happens,” said Browner. “Really, it’s just up to the refs. I just go out there and play my game. Sometimes they catch me, sometimes they don’t. They don’t call everything or I’d have broken it by the third game.”
Record-breaking performances are nothing new to the Saints. In 2011, quarterback Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s single-season passing yards mark and a year later he broke Johnny Unitas’ record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass. Both games were briefly paused to honor the milestone.
The NFL’s plans also are similar to those that followed Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning breaking the NFL career yardage passing record in a November 15 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Manning completed a 4-yard pass to put him in front of previous record holder Brett Favre, and the game paused for a brief ceremony and acknowledgment. Manning, however, was later benched during the game for his poor play and has not started a game since.
Though he has criticized Browner all season, Saints fan Brock Thibodaux knows #39 is on the verge of something special.
“My grandpappy always said if you’re going to do something you try to be the absolute best at it. So, I have to give it to Mr. Browner for being the best, or is it worst?, ever at his position. That’s got to count for something, I guess,” said Thibodaux.
Browner isn’t changing his game preparation this week because of the potential record, saying it’s business like usual in practice where he’s tugging and pulling offensive players like normal. But he says what separates him from the pack is that he maintains his highly disciplined routine off the field as well to ensure he’s always at his peak.
“Look, I holdup whatever I can whenever I can—elevators, lines, cars behind me at the drive-thru. Anything. You gotta be in that mindset all the time if you want to be the best,” said Browner. “There’s no letting loose.”