TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown returned on Monday after serving a three-game suspension for reportedly violating the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols by using a fake vaccine card.
Brown missed Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints, the NFL Network reported. Brown and Mike Edwards, who also violated the league’s COVID-19 protocols, have reportedly been attending meetings and working out in the team’s facility.
Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians had bigger concerns Sunday night than the Buccaneers failing to clinch their first division title since 2007.
“It hurts more losing all the players we lost,” Arians said. “We lost about seven starters in this game.”
Godwin (knee) and Evans (hamstring) left in the second quarter. Fournette (hamstring) exited in the third.
“A lot of guys got banged up tonight but that’s part of football,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “So, got to try and figure out who can go in and fill in some roles and play great football.”
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David also left after injuring his foot.
New Orleans (7-7) beat the Buccaneers (10-4) for the seventh straight time during the regular season — fourth since Brady left New England for Tampa Bay in 2020.
“They’ve got a really good defense, really good scheme, tough to go against,” said Brady, who threw a tablet to the ground in frustration while sitting on the bench late in the game.
The Bucs, who did win a playoff game at New Orleans last January en route to their Super Bowl title, lead the NFC South by three games with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
New Orleans shut down the NFL’s No. 1 passing and scoring offense, and ended Brady’s streak of 255 consecutive starts (including playoff games) without being shut out.
“Between the offense and the kicking game, it cost us the game,” Arians said. “The defense played good enough to win.”
Tampa Bay outgained the Saints 302-212. New Orleans had just 11 first downs and was 3 of 18 (18.8%) on third-down conversions.
But three field goals by Brett Maher provided the margin of victory for the Saints.
Reinforcements On The Way
The Buccaneers will get some reinforcements for next Sunday’s game at Carolina. Wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards both served the final game of three-game suspensions Sunday for using fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.
Arians said the team is welcoming the pair back.
“It’s in the best interest of our football team,” Arians said. “Both those guys have served their time.”
NOTES: Bucs S Jordan Whitehead returned to the lineup after missing two games, but S Antoine Winfield Jr. (foot), CB Jamel Dean (illness) and CB Richard Sherman (Achilles) were inactive. … Fournette led the Bucs with seven receptions for 33 yards. Godwin had six catches for 49 yards.