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The NFL has suspended Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards, as well as former Bucs wide receiver John Franklin III, for three games for violations of the league's COVID-19 protocols, as announced on Thursday.

Brown and Edwards will be suspended without pay through Week 15, while Franklin, a free agent, would have to sit out of three games upon signing with a club.

The NFL and NFL Players Association investigated allegations against Brown that were reported on November 18, claiming the wide received obtained and used a fake COVID-19 vaccination card over the summer. At that time, Brown's plan worked as the Buccaneers were led to believe they were a fully vaccinated team. 

The joint review found these allegations to be true and they incriminated Brown's teammate in Edwards and former teammate in Franklin, claiming the three "misrepresented their vaccination status under the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Protocols."

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"The health and safety of players and personnel is our top priority. 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 league and player's association said in a statement on Thursday. "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 statement also said that Brown, Edwards and Franklin have accepted their punishments and that they are effective immediately.

“We appreciate the League’s timely handling of this matter and recognize the importance of the health and safety protocols that have been established," the Buccaneers said in a response statement. "We will continue to implement all league COVID-19 protocols.”

Brown was expected to miss Tampa Bay's next two games as he continues to recover from an ankle/heel injury, per a Wednesday report.

Forging vaccination cards and documents with a government seal is a federal crime under Title 18 of the US Code, Section 10-17, which could result in a fine and a maximum sentence of five years in prison if an individual is convicted.

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