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Source: Antonio Brown's Fake Vaccine Card Listed Citrus County

The star receiver and his two teammates attempted to use cards from a part of Florida to which they had no connection. The league has cleared the Buccaneers of any wrongdoing.

The three-game suspensions the NFL assessed to Buccaneers receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards, and ex-Bucs receiver John Franklin III on Thursday were the result of a two-week investigation into Brown’s vaccination status. But how they got caught misleading the team can be explained in two seconds.

All three players, sources said, produced vaccination cards purportedly from Citrus County, a county with a population of 153,843 about an hour and a half up Florida’s Gulf Coast from downtown Tampa. None of the three have any connection to that rural area—Brown and Franklin are originally from South Florida, and Franklin is from Ohio—which led to the league’s looking closer into each player’s status and ultimately busting them for fake cards.

Suspensions for Brown and Edwards start immediately, while Franklin will have to serve a three-game suspension before getting on the field if he’s signed by a team. All three waived their right to appeal and accepted the penalties.

“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.”

Brown, Edwards and Franklin are all now vaccinated, and that was verified by the NFL during the investigation, a source said. The Buccaneers’ involvement in this case was investigated by the league, and the team was cleared of any wrongdoing.

There have been rumblings for months about players’ providing fake cards, but the Bucs’ case is the first one the league has caught. According to the NFL, the league’s vaccination rate (based on players who have at least one shot) now sits at 94.5%. Additionally, 80% of those vaccinated got their shots at team facilities.

The NFL has put the responsibility on teams to verify players’ vaccination status and, according to a source, that won’t change as a result of this particular case.

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