After his team got shut out 9-0 against New Orleans and lost two key skill position players to injury, Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians announced that two players — Antonio Brown and Mike Edwards — would return to the team following their suspensions.
Arians said it was “in the best interest” of the Buccaneers to bring them back.
Bucs’ HC Bruce Arians on the decision to bring back WR Antonio Brown and S Mike Edwards after they misrepresented their vaccination status: “Yeah, it’s in the best interest of our football team. Both of those guys have served their time and we’ll welcome them back.”
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 20, 2021
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The pair were suspended each of the past three games by the NFL for misrepresenting their COVID vaccination statuses. Brown, in a widely publicized debacle, was caught using a fake vaccination card after his former live-in chef reported the wide receiver for the violation. Edwards also got caught with a fake vaccination card and also was suspended for three games.
While it might have been a foregone conclusion in-house that both would return after their suspensions, Arians kept quiet about it and remained non-committal.
“Obviously we have two guys suspended,” Arians said in a news conference on Dec. 3. “The league did their due diligence and we move on. I will not address those guys for the next three weeks. They’ll just be working out and we’ll address their future at that time. Other than that, there’s really nothing to say.”
Brown has played in just five games this season and hasn’t played since Oct. 14, missing time because of both the suspension and a heel injury that sidelined him. The Bucs were 5-0 when he played and he had two 100-plus receiving yard games during his first five contests.
Edwards, despite missing three games, is the team’s leader in interceptions, with three, while running two of them back for touchdowns.
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Brown’s return is especially timely as Nos. 1 and 2 receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin left Tampa’s game on Sunday against New Orleans with injuries. Brown, who was already the No. 3 receiver on the depth chart, was replaced by Breshad Perriman in his absence, but Perriman landed on the COVID-19 reserve list.
According to ESPN, both Brown and Edwards were permitted to work out away from the team during their suspensions, meaning they should be ready to go for the Buccaneers’ upcoming game against Carolina should they be thrust into action right away.
ESPN also noted that a league source said both players are now vaccinated.