The NFL suspended Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards three games each without pay Thursday for misrepresenting their vaccination status.
A league investigation found that Brown, Edwards and free agent John Franklin III violated NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols.
Per anNFL release, all three players waived their right to appeals. The suspensions are effective immediately. Brown was likely to miss at least the next two games anyway with a lingering ankle/heel injury.
"The health and safety of players and personnel is our top priority," the NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement. "The protocols were jointly developed working with our respective experts to ensure that we are practicing and playing football as safely as possible during the ongoing pandemic. The NFL-NFLPA jointly reinforce their commitment and further emphasize the importance of strict adherence to the protocols to protect the well-being of everyone associated with the NFL."
The NFL didn't say specifically how Brown and the others violated protocols.
But the review came after Brown's former live-in chef accused Brown last month of obtaining a fake COVID vaccination card to avoid NFL protocols. Steven Ruiz told the Tampa Bay Times that Brown, through his girlfriend, offered Ruiz $500 to obtain a fake vaxx card. Ruiz couldn't get one but said Brown showed him fake vaxx cards he purchased for himself and his girlfriend.
At the time, the Bucs released a statement saying, in part, "All vaccination cards were reviewed by Buccaneers personnel and no irregularities were observed."
The Bucs released this statement Thursday:
"We appreciate the League's timely handling of this matter and recognize the importance of the health and safety protocols that have been established. We will continue to implement all league COVID-19 protocols."
Brown, 33, has 29 receptions for 418 yards and four touchdowns in five games this season.
Brown's attorney Sean Burstyn, as he did last month, released a statement maintaining that Brown is vaccinated.
"Mr. Brown is vaccinated and continues to support the vaccine for any person for whom it is appropriate," Burstyn said. "The NFL made its determination and, instead of going through the drawn out an distracting process of challenging the outcome, Mr. Brown wrapped this up promptly and he will make this (sic) most of this time by treating his ankle injury. Mr. Brown will be motivated, well rested and in the best shape of his life when he returns in week 16."
Edwards, 25, has three interceptions in 11 games (three starts) for the Bucs this season. He returned two INTs for touchdowns in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons. He's played in 42 games (10 starts) overall for the Bucs.
If Franklin is signed by another team, he will have to miss the first three games.
--Field Level Media