The NFL has completed its due diligence in regards to the allegation that Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card, and the league has proceeded to hand him a three-game suspension. Brown was already going to be out at least the next couple of games due to an ankle injury, but he isn’t out of the woods with troubles just yet. His former live-in chef, Steven Ruiz, who brought about the allegation, is suing Brown for $10,000 in unpaid invoices. Ruiz told TMZ, “The game plan now is to file a lawsuit and take it from there.” Had Brown paid his former chef the wages that he owed him, he likely wouldn’t be facing suspension. Brown will also likely miss out on any stat-related incentives.
Brown, along with S Mike Edwards, and now free agent John Franklin III, produced fake vaccination cards from Citrus County. None of the three players have any ties to Citrus County, which is located about an hour and a half away from Tampa. After finding out that they could get into serious trouble for having fake cards, Brown and Edwards became vaccinated shortly after sources told Dan Graziano of ESPN. The NFL was looking at handing out six to eight game suspensions but settled on three games alongside the NFLPA.
Brown has appeared in five games for the Bucs this season. If he were to play in the final three games of the season after suspension, then he would match the eight games that he played for the Bucs last season. Head Coach Bruce Arians spoke to the media ahead of the Falcons matchup and said nothing has been decided about the players’ futures once their suspensions are up. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the future of both players, especially Brown, is up in the air once the suspension is lifted.
Although Brown’s future with the Bucs is technically up in the air, it seems unlikely that the Bucs would release him. If the Bucs were thinking about releasing Brown, they would have most likely done it right after the league announced his suspension. Tom Brady has a great relationship with Brown and would definitely make his push to keep him on the team if need be. After the conclusion of their suspensions, big games will be looming at the end of the year, heading towards the playoffs.
The Bucs are “going for 2” and having Brown and Edwards in those games will be crucial. The Bucs offense has been struggling with the deep ball as of late, and the Bucs defense has had injuries to the secondary all season. Tampa Bay has done an excellent job in preventing any COVID-19 outbreaks within the organization, so there is a good chance that they will move on from the situation and keep their depth intact as much as possible.