The NFL suspended Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards for three games each after determining that they had misrepresented their vaccination status, the league announced Thursday.

The players accepted their suspensions, which are without pay, and waived their right to appeal, the NFL said. Free agent wide receiver John Franklin III, formerly of the Buccaneers, also faces a three-game suspension if signed by a team, according to the league.

All three players submitted fake vaccination cards, according to a person familiar with the findings of the NFL’s review. All three players are now legitimately vaccinated, that person said.

The league said that the NFL Players Association represented the three players during a review “into the recent allegations that players misrepresented their vaccination status.” The review, the NFL said, “supported those allegations and found that the three players violated the protocols” developed by the league and NFLPA.

Brown’s suspension comes after a report that he obtained a fake vaccination card to evade league protocols for unvaccinated players. The league and the NFLPA reviewed the matter after a former live-in chef for Brown alleged that Brown obtained the fake vaccination card.

“The health and safety of players and personnel is our top priority,” the league and NFLPA said in a joint written statement. “The protocols were jointly developed working with our respective experts to ensure that we are practicing and playing football as safely as possible during the ongoing pandemic. The NFL-NFLPA jointly reinforce their commitment and further emphasize the importance of strict adherence to the protocols to protect the well-being of everyone associated with the NFL.”

The Buccaneers said in a written statement Thursday: “We appreciate the League’s timely handling of this matter and recognize the importance of the health and safety protocols that have been established. We will continue to implement all league COVID-19 protocols.”

None of the players was immediately available to comment.

“Mr. Brown is vaccinated and continues to support the vaccine for any person for whom it is appropriate,” Brown’s attorney, Sean Burstyn, said in a written statement Thursday. “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 use this time as an opportunity to treat his ankle injury.”

Burstyn had said when the accusation first was reported last month that Brown had expressed that he was vaccinated. The Buccaneers said then that “no irregularities were observed” in the vaccination cards submitted by the team’s players.

The chef, Steven Ruiz, initially made the allegation last month in a report by the Tampa Bay Times. Ruiz also told the paper that Brown owed him $10,000. The NFL said at the time that it had been in contact with the Buccaneers and would review the matter.

The NFL previously warned teams to be vigilant to monitor for the potential use of fake vaccination cards, stressing that it is a violation of federal law. The league had told teams that any attempt by a player or staff member to use one would be reviewed by the league under its personal conduct policy.

The league has left the responsibility for verifying players’ and staffers’ vaccination status with individual teams and previously had not reported any issues. The NFL raised the issue with teams during a July 22 video conference before the start of training camps. According to a person familiar with the situation, the league warned teams then to scrutinize vaccination cards.

Brown missed one game earlier this season after reportedly testing positive for the coronavirus. He is in his second season with the Buccaneers. He signed with the team last season as he neared the completion of an eight-game suspension by the NFL for multiple violations of the personal conduct policy. The Buccaneers said before this season that they were fully vaccinated throughout their entire organization.

The NFL and NFLPA, which jointly develop and oversee the protocols, have not mandated vaccinations for players. But unvaccinated players face daily testing for the virus, while vaccinated players generally are tested only once per week. Unvaccinated players also face more stringent mask-wearing requirements and other restrictions. The NFL has said that more than 94 percent of players leaguewide are vaccinated. Brown was the first NFL player reported to have obtained a fake vaccination card.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers created a controversy when he defended his unvaccinated status after testing positive last month for the virus, which led to him missing one game while in isolation for 10 days. Rodgers had lobbied unsuccessfully in the summer for the league and NFLPA to regard him as the equivalent of vaccinated under the protocols based on a homeopathic medicine treatment.

Rodgers said later that he took “full responsibility” for misleading statements. He’d said in August that he was “immunized” and would not judge unvaccinated players. The NFL fined the Packers $300,000 last month for protocol violations. Rodgers and a teammate, Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard, were fined $14,650 each after the protocol violations were established through a review by the league and NFLPA. The Packers were told that any further protocol violations could result in increased discipline, such as the potential loss of draft choices or a change in draft-pick position.