Report: NFL Considered 6-8-Game Antonio Brown Suspension over Fake Vaccination Card

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVDecember 4, 2021

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown in action during an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The NFL reportedly considered a longer suspension for Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown before settling on three games.

According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the league discussed suspending Brown for six to eight games during initial conversations:

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

From <a href="https://twitter.com/gmfb?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@gmfb</a>: The NFL initially considered suspending <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bucs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bucs</a> WR Antonio Brown and two other players 6-8 games for COVID protocol violations before settling on 3-game bans. Meanwhile, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Packers?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Packers</a> QB Aaron Rodgers got permission to travel for a bye-week doctor’s appointment. <a href="https://t.co/OER0mYo52i">pic.twitter.com/OER0mYo52i</a>

The same goes for Bucs safety Mike Edwards and free-agent wide receiver John Franklin III, all of whom were suspended three games apiece for "misrepresenting" their COVID-19 vaccination status.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported last month that Brown's former personal chef, Steven Ruiz, said Brown had procured a fake vaccination card.

Per ESPN, Brown, Edwards and Franklin all admitted wrongdoing to the NFL and have since gotten vaccinated.

The 33-year-old Brown is in the midst of his second season with the Bucs and has been one of quarterback Tom Brady's top targets when healthy.

Injuries have limited him to just five games in 2021, but Brown put up big numbers in those contests with 29 receptions for 418 yards and four touchdowns.

Entering this week, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Brown was expected to miss at least two more games with ankle and heel injuries, meaning the suspension won't have a huge impact on his availability.

Brown signed with Tampa during the 2020 season and made a splash with 45 catches for 483 yards and four touchdowns in eight games. He missed the first half of the season serving an eight-game suspension from the NFL after multiple off-field allegations against him.

Those included three allegations of sexual assault from Britney Taylor, his former personal trainer, and an allegation of sexual harassment by an artist Brown hired to paint a mural at his home. Robert Klemko later reported for Sports Illustrated that the second accuser told him she received intimidating text messages from the phone number she had previously used to communicate with Brown.

Brown also pleaded no-contest to burglary and battery charges after he was accused of assaulting a moving-truck driver.

He also appeared in three playoff games and had eight grabs for 81 yards and two touchdowns en route to the Bucs winning the Super Bowl.

Brown is one of the best wideouts of his era thanks largely to what he did in nine seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He made 837 catches for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns in Pittsburgh and was a seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time first-team All-Pro.

As good and dynamic as Brown still is, he is a luxury of sorts for the Tampa Bay offense.

Even without Brown, Brady has two high-caliber wide receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, a future Hall of Fame tight end in Rob Gronkowski and a red-hot running back in Leonard Fournette.

The 8-3 Buccaneers will be without Brown and Edwards for the next three weeks as they look to solidify their status as the top team in NFC South, but they will both be eligible to return against the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 26.