TAMPA, Fla. — The NFL has suspended two Tampa Bay Buccaneers players for misrepresenting their vaccination status in violation of COVID protocols, the league wrote in a statement.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards will be suspended without pay for the next three games following an investigation by the league into recent allegations. A third player, free agent John Franklin III, if signed by the club, would also be ineligible to play for three games.
"All three players have accepted the discipline and waived their right of appeal. The suspensions are effective immediately," the NFL wrote.
News of the suspensions come just weeks after a Tampa Bay Times report from Rick Stroud accused Brown of obtaining a fake COVID-19 vaccination card to dodge league rules.
Brown's lawyer, Sean Burstyn, who previously denied the Times' report, maintains the fact that the Bucs wide receiver is vaccinated, and he "continues to support the vaccine for any person to 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 this most of this time by treating his ankle injury," Burstyn said.
Brown's lawyer would go on to say he would return in week 16. Brown has been recovering from an ankle injury he sustained in week 6. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the wide receiver is expected to miss two more weeks due to the injury. Meaning, once Brown serves his suspension, he will be eligible to return on Jan. 9 in a season-ending game against the Carolina Panthers.
“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 Bucs wrote Thursday in a statement. "We will continue to implement all league COVID-19 protocols.”
The NFL and NFLPA also issued a joint statement, calling the health and safety of players and personnel their 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," they wrote. "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 league also said the Buccaneers would not face any fines for the suspensions.
"The team was fully cooperative and helpful throughout this process," the NFL said.