Antonio Brown Reaches Settlement with Chef Who Revealed Bucs WR Had Fake Vaccine Card

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 20, 2021

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 14: Antonio Brown #81 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on October 14, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Antonio Brown reached a financial settlement with chef Steven Ruiz, who revealed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card, which led to a three-game suspension from the NFL.

Ruiz confirmed to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times on Monday the matter was "satisfactorily resolved." He didn't provide details of the agreement but had sought $10,000 for work he'd previously done for Brown.

The NFL opened an investigation into the veracity of wideout's vaccine card in November after Stroud reported Ruiz said the receiver's girlfriend, Cydney Moreau, told him Brown was offering $500 for fake cards. While Ruiz did not obtain cards for Brown and Moreau, he said Brown later showed him the fake cards he had purchased.

ESPN's Dan Graziano reported the NFL's probe determined the 33-year-old seven-time Pro Bowl selection showed up to training camp with a fraudulent card, though he later decided to get vaccinated.

Sean Burstyn, Brown's lawyer, told ESPN his client opted against challenging the suspension because he was still recovering from an ankle injury when the ban was handed down.

"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," Burstyn said. "Mr. Brown will be motivated, well rested, and in the best shape of his life when he returns in Week 16."

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians was noncommittal about Brown's future with the organization for the duration of his suspension before confirming Sunday night he'd return to the active roster once eligible this week.

"It's in the best interest of our football team. Both of those guys have served their time and we'll welcome them back," Arians told reporters about Brown and safety Mike Edwards, who was also suspended by the NFL following its investigation.

Brown signed with Tampa Bay in October 2020, shortly before the conclusion of a previous eight-game suspension for multiple violations of the NFL's personal conduct policy, including his no-contest plea to burglary and battery charges after he allegedly assaulted a moving truck driver in January 2020.

The Central Michigan product captured his first championship as the Buccaneers went on to win Super Bowl LV at the end of last season, and he was off to a strong start in 2021 before suffering the ankle injury in mid-October. He's tallied 29 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns in five games.

Brown previously played nine years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he emerged as one of the NFL's best receivers, and spent time with the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots in 2019.

He was released by the Raiders after multiple disputes with team management, and the Patriots also cut ties with the receiver in the wake of sexual assault and misconduct allegations made against him by two women.

Three days after Brown signed with the Patriots, his former trainer Britney Taylor filed a civil lawsuit accusing him of sexually assaulting her three times.

Shortly after Taylor's lawsuit was filed, a second woman said Brown had acted inappropriately after hiring her to paint a mural at his home. The woman told Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated that Brown approached her naked with a small towel covering his genitals.

The Patriots released Brown after the woman told Klemko she had received intimidating texts from the same phone number she had previously used to communicate with Brown following the publication of her initial allegations.

Brown is eligible to rejoin the Bucs for Sunday's Week 16 road game against the Carolina Panthers.