TAMPA, Fla. — The NFL has suspended Bucs receiver Antonio Brown, safety Mike Edwards and former Bucs receiver John Franklin III three games without pay for using fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.
All three players accepted their discipline and waived their right to an appeal, the league said in a statement released Thursday.
The NFL began its investigation after the Tampa Bay Times reported that Brown obtained and utilized a fake vaccination card, according to his former live-in chef, Steven Ruiz.
The NFL Players Association represented all three players during a joint review that supported the allegations and found each violated league protocols.
Brown, 33, is recovering from an ankle injury he sustained in a win at Philadelphia on Oct. 14. The Bucs said the injury will force him to miss Sunday’s game at Atlanta and the Dec. 12 game against Buffalo at Raymond James Stadium.
With the suspension, Brown and Edwards won’t be eligible to return until Week 16, when the Bucs host the Carolina Panthers the day after Christmas.
In addition, the suspension will cost Brown three game checks at $61,111 each, or $183,333. Edwards’ suspension will cost him $141,666.
When the Tampa Bay Times reported allegations that Brown had used a fake vaccination card, the Bucs issued a statement saying all their players were vaccinated and “no irregularities were observed.”
But on Thursday, they thanked the NFL for its expedited investigation.
“We appreciate the League’s timely handling of this matter and recognize the importance of health and safety protocols that have been established,” the Bucs said in a statement. “We will continue to implement all league COVID-19 protocols.”