Antonio Brown has missed the Buccaneers' last five games while recovering from an ankle injury. Now, he's guaranteed to miss at least three more. The NFL announced Thursday that Brown is one of three players who will be suspended three games for violating the league's COVID-19 protocols, specifically for misrepresenting their vaccination status.
In November, the Tampa Bay Times reported allegations from Brown's former live-in chef that the longtime wide receiver had sought and obtained fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. Brown quickly denied the accusations through his attorney, who explicitly said his client was vaccinated, and the Buccaneers announced they had found "no irregularities" with any player's vaccination cards. But the NFL announced Thursday that Brown, along with Buccaneers defensive back Mike Edwards and former Bucs wide receiver John Franklin III, are all being suspended precisely because of misrepresented vaccination statuses.
"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's attorney, Sean Burstyn, maintained Thursday that Brown is vaccinated against COVID-19, which isn't mandated by the NFL but enables players to enjoy loosened restrictions in accordance to COVID protocols.
"Mr. Brown is vaccinated and continues to support the vaccine for any person for whom it is appropriate," Burstyn said in a statement. "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."
Brown was already expected to be sidelined another two weeks with his injury, per NFL Media, but will only officially be eligible to return on Dec. 26, when the Buccaneers visit the Panthers in Week 16.