On Thursday, the NFL announced it was suspending two current members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and one former.
“Tampa Bay’s Antonio Brown and Mike Edwards have each been suspended without pay for the next three games,” the NFL said via press release. “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 wived their right of appeal. The suspensions are effective immediately.”
In mid-November, it was reported by the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud that former private chef Steven Ruiz was accusing Buccaneers wide receiver of having obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card in an attempt to circumvent the protocols agreed upon by the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
At the time, the Bucs released a statement defending their execution of the protocols, and Brown’s agent released statements from the player ensuring the public the wide receiver was in the right.
However, following his suspension on Thursday for three games, more questions will surely be brought up about the accusations, and to what extent the organization played in identifying, reporting, or helping the NFL in their investigation.
The Bucs also released a statement to the media, saying, “We appreciate the League’s timely handling of this matter and recognize the importance of health and safety protocols that have been established. We will continue to implement all league COVID-19 protocols.”
According to a tweet from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were not fined and did provide assistance to the league during the investigation.
This would indicate the team itself being unaware of any lack of authenticity regarding the statuses of Brown, Edwards, and Franklin - who was a member of the Buccaneers as recent as earlier this year.
Through yet another statement from Brown’s agent, Sean Burstyn, he said, “Mr. 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 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.”
Brown has been dealing with an ankle injury for an extended period of time already, and was expected to miss the next two weeks for Tampa Bay before the suspension.
If anything, this gives the wide receiver one more week to heal and rest before returning to practice and playing form.
Safety Mike Edwards has been a critical part of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ unit which has been battling through injuries all season long, especially in the secondary.
With cornerback Carlton Davis III close to returning, and expected to have a high probability of playing this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons, the Bucs will have to wait longer still to get their Super Bowl-winning secondary back to full strength.
Of course, the football-watching world now waits to see what the Buccaneers organization will do, considering head coach Bruce Arians’ quote back in November of 2020, when the team brought on the troubled receiver.
“He’s been a model citizen,” Arians said to Sirius XM NFL Radio at the time. “If and when he’s not, we’ll move on.”
Hard to consider faking medical documents, and helping two others do the same if those accusations are also true, being a model citizen.
Winning drives a lot of decisions in the NFL though, and the thought of Brown signing on with a playoff contender after his suspension will surely be considered.
Subscribers to the Tampa Bay Times can find the original report by Stroud, here.