By Jim Thomas
Saturday, May. 10 2008

Fakhir Brown's minimum goal for the 2008 season is to play a full 16 games,
something he has done only once previously in an eight-year NFL career that has
included stops in San Diego, New Orleans and St. Louis.

For a while this offseason, he was concerned that he would miss all 16 games
for failing to meet NFL drug-testing standards. League and team officials
normally don't comment on such matters, but Brown told the Post-Dispatch on
Friday that he has received a reprieve of sorts after meeting with league
attorneys and officials.

"They were going to suspend me for a whole year," Brown said. "At least right
now, I know that I'm not going to get suspended for a whole year."

To Brown's understanding, he still might receive some form of punishment from
the league — but it won't be a year's suspension.

A one-year suspension usually is the next level of punishment after a four-game
suspension in the NFL. Brown was suspended for the first four games of 2007 for
failing to meet standards of the league drug-testing program. At that time,
Brown said he didn't actually fail a test — he simply missed a test. But in the
eyes of the NFL, that's considered the same as a failed test.

This time around, Brown said he was considered to have failed a drug test
because of what's called a diluted urine sample. In other words, too much water
in his system.

"That's what it was — a 'dilute,'" Brown said. "If we're getting tested right
before practice, I'm quite sure it's going to be a dilute, because that's all I
do is drink water and Gatorade before practice. (But) I had to take the test
right then."

The test in question took place during the 2007 regular season.

Players who test positive are subject to more frequent tests than players who
do not. Brown said Friday that he was "in the program" — that is, subject to
more frequent testing because of a previously failed test — before Roger
Goodell became NFL commissioner.

"Once Roger Goodell came in, the rules got real strict," Brown said.

Previously, Brown said, the program "was more flexible, and they were more
willing to listen to your side."

So Brown doesn't feel as if he's being picked on by the league. He just
realizes he has to be more careful with Goodell as commissioner.

"It's something you're always going to be thinking about and wondering what's
going to happen in this situation I'm in," Brown said.

There's no doubt the Rams' secondary is better with Brown stationed at his
right cornerback spot.

"Last year's deal where he missed the first four games, that was obviously
something you hope doesn't happen again," coach Scott Linehan said. "We've
talked about it. He's really re-energized with the fact that he's got a lot of
that behind him, and hopefully for good."

Even missing four games last season, Brown established career highs for
interceptions (four) and pass breakups (16). With 53 tackles in those 12 games,
he was on track to come close to a new career high for tackles as well.

"He's got size, and he's physical," Linehan said. "He's a guy that you feel
pretty good about at right corner. … During my time here, we've played our best
in the secondary when he's been on the field. So I know I feel better with him
out there, that's for sure.

"He's been banged up a little — that happens. But if we can get the consistent
play out of him that he's capable of, and get a full season out of him, it'll
really help us."

Under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, the Rams play a lot of man-to-man
coverage, which can make it tougher for cornerbacks to get interceptions. But
if Brown is on the field for the entire season, he thinks he'll get enough
chances and make enough plays to garner Pro Bowl recognition.

Beyond that, he'd like to play in his first NFL playoff game. Until last
season, Brown had played on only two losing teams. He has been part of four 8-8
teams, plus a 9-7 squad in New Orleans (in 2002), but none of them was a
playoff qualifier.

Keeping in mind that optimism always runs rampant in the NFL this time of year,
Brown said of the 2008 Rams: "I know we have a good team. We just faced a lot
of injuries last season. We're better than a lot of teams that were in the
playoffs (last season)."

For the Rams to get there this season, it will take a 16-game effort from
everybody. Brown included.