The NFL has suspended Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown, safety Mike Edwards and former Bucs defensive back John Franklin III after an investigation into allegations that the three "misrepresented their vaccine status under the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Protocols."
"Tampa Bay's Antonio Brown and Mike Edwards have each been suspended without pay for the next three games," the NFL's announcement says. "Free agent John Franklin III, if signed by a club, is also ineligible to play in the next three games. All three players have accepted the discipline and waived their right of appeal. The suspensions are effective immediately."
Last month, Antonio Brown was accused by a former live-in chef of obtaining a fake vaccination card in an apparent attempt to duck the NFL's vaccine protocols.
Sean Burstyn, a lawyer representing Brown, said in a statement that Brown is vaccinated and "continues to support the vaccine for any person for whom it is appropriate."
"The NFL made its determination and, instead of going through the drawn out and distracting process of challenging the outcome, Mr. Brown wrapped this up promptly and he will make the most of this time by treating his ankle injury," Burstyn said in a statement. "Mr. Brown will be motivated, well rested, and in the best shape of his life when he returns in week 16."
Brown was off to a strong start to his second season with the Buccaneers. He has 29 receptions for 418 yards and four touchdowns in five games for the team, before suffering a sprained ankle that has kept him out since mid-October.
Edwards, a third-year cornerback for the defending Super Bowl champions, has appeared in all 11 of the team's games this season, with three starts. He has a career-high three interceptions on the season, returning two for touchdowns and breaking up seven passes.
Franklin III joined the team in 2019 and spent 2020 on the injured reserve. He was waived in August and remains unsigned.
Tampa Bay released a brief statement moments ago:
Ahead of the season, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said his team was 100% vaccinated and tried to shut down the controversy around Brown's alleged fake vaccination card during a Nov. 19 appearance on The Dan Patrick Show.
"He says he is vaccinated and he has a card just like everybody else on our football team," Arians said. "There's a trust factor that goes along with it. We did our due diligence, the league will look into the matter and do their due diligence. It's really no story."
Brown has been out since Week 6 with a sprained ankle. On Wednesday, Adam Schefter reported that Brown is expected to miss at least two more weeks with the injury.
It is unclear if Brown faces further legal troubles based on this. The FBI says that using a fake COVID-19 vaccine card is "unauthorized use of a government agency's seal" and a violation of federal law.
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