- NFL teams have found player vaccine cards with questionable details, the Wall Street Journal reported.
- Teams have reportedly asked players if they were sure they wanted to submit those cards.
- NFL teams are in charge of checking cards, but some don't bother or know how to check for fakes.
Though the NFL estimates that 93.5% of its players have received a COVID-19 vaccine, there have been questions about the legitimacy of some of those shots.
According to The Wall Street Journal's Andrew Beaton, NFL teams, independently in charge of checking player vaccine cards, have noticed some questionable submissions.
According to Beaton, teams have noticed misspellings or dates for second shots that didn't line up. In those instances, teams have asked players "if they were sure they wanted to submit that card," Beaton reported.
The issue was recently raised with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Antonio Brown.
In November, Brown's ex-personal chef, Steven Ruiz, told the Tampa Bay Times that Brown had received a fake vaccine card. The Tampa Bay Times published text messages showing Brown's girlfriend asking Ruiz to purchase a fake card for Brown.
Though Ruiz said he could not purchase a fake card for Brown, the wide receiver is accused of getting one somewhere else.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Alex Guerrero, Tom Brady's personal trainer, friend, and business partner, had sent a photo of Brown's card to the Buccaneers training staff to add to the database of who was vaccinated. It's unclear if Guerrero knew it was fake, but Defector's Kalyn Kahler reported on Friday that Brady was a big advocate of players getting vaccinated.
Beaton reported that when NFL investigators were initially surprised that Brown had gotten his vaccine in Citrus County, Florida, about 90 minutes from Tampa. When investigators found that two other players — Bucs safety Mike Edwards and now-free-agent wide receiver John Franklin III — had also gotten their vaccines from the same place at the same time, it led to the "scheme unraveling," according to Beaton.
All three players were suspended for three games, the NFL announced on Thursday. ESPN reported that Brown got vaccinated after learning in training camp that he could get in trouble for having a fake card.
Kahler had previously reported that the process of checking vaccine cards has fallen into the hands of each team. While the league reportedly told teams to be wary of fake cards, they provided "no additional instruction or training on how to verify player vaccinations beyond taking photos of the cards," according to Kahler.
One trainer told Kahler that after entering the card information into the system, he doesn't ask any more questions.
Still, the NFL believes fake cards are not that prevalent. According to ESPN's Dan Graziano, about 80% of players have received vaccines at team facilities, thus ensuring the shots are legitimate. The NFL also hasn't found any difference in COVID positivity rate between players vaccinated at team facilities or off-site.