Arians: Bucs did ‘due diligence’ on AB vax card

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said Friday that he has no reason to believe wide receiver Antonio Brown procured a fake COVID-19 vaccination card and that the team did its due diligence in vetting player vaccine cards.

“None whatsoever,” Arians said. “We did our due diligence. The league will do theirs. The statement says everything. I really don’t think it’s a story, and it has nothing to do with the Giants game.”

When it was brought up that player health and safety does impact every game, considering Brown missed Week 3 because of a positive COVID-19 test, Arians quipped, “No, it doesn’t. It has nothing to do with the Giants game.”

On Thursday, in an article in the Tampa Bay Times, Brown’s former live-in chef, Steven Ruiz, who also took on the role of a personal assistant, accused Brown of obtaining a fake vaccine card, after Ruiz was allegedly asked by Brown’s girlfriend, Cydney Moreau, how to go about obtaining one for each of them.

Ruiz said he told her he’d “look into it,” but he never obtained the cards, which is not only subject to the NFL personal conduct policy but also a federal crime.

“I was very uncomfortable,” Ruiz told ESPN on Friday. But he said Brown obtained a card from a Buccaneers teammate.

“He got them from another player who was selling them,” said Ruiz, who declined to name the player. “That player came over to the house multiple times. He had to get another copy of Cyd’s vaccine card because they got her birthday wrong on the first one.”

“I’m gonna sit on it for a little while,” Ruiz said. “The truth will eventually come out. If this does become a bigger and deeper investigation to follow the NFL — just to get into legal terms — this will all come to light.”

Moreau denied the accusation and told the Times that she doesn’t know Ruiz, who provided screen captures of the alleged request to the newspaper.

Brown’s attorney, Sean Burstyn, denied that Brown obtained a fake vaccine card. He asked for proof of a transaction for the card and said he doesn’t believe it exists.

“If Antonio’s doctors and the guidelines require a booster shot, then at that time, he’ll be happy to do it live on TV and everyone can come watch,” Burstyn said.

Ruiz said he moved to Tampa, Florida, to live with Brown, and once their business relationship ended after the Week 1 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Brown tried to renegotiate his rate, and he moved back to Los Angeles.

He said it was well known in Brown’s camp that Brown was hesitant about the vaccine and its side effects.

“It was talked about like it was nothing,” Ruiz told ESPN. “So it was never really like a secretive thing [with] anyone around his camp. It was just something that everyone knew and everybody discussed.”

Ruiz reached out to Kevin Blatt, a media broker of stories who is also serving as his spokesperson, for assistance. Blatt spoke to Buccaneers’ general counsel about the allegations. Ruiz feels his claims were dismissed. The Buccaneers put out a statement Thursday saying they did their due diligence, as the NFL makes teams responsible for vetting vaccination cards by snapping photos of them and does not have any additional steps to verify their authenticity.

“To be honest, I feel like the Bucs started distancing themselves from him already, once they knew that this story was gonna break,” Ruiz said. “They were already trying to wash their hands of it because they don’t want any part of it. The NFL doesn’t want any part of it. Just from what I gather from the Bucs in general — they just wanna keep their hands clean.”

NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told ESPN on Thursday that no other vaccine cards had been called into question and that teams remain responsible for verifying the cards’ authenticity. Players, coaches and other team employees must present their vaccination cards to club medical staff for verification.

“It’s a health hazard,” Ruiz said about fake vaccine cards.

While his initial goal was to recoup some of his finances, he said, “the money is what it is. I’m not gonna stress about $10,000. It’s just more of a public safety issue that I wanted to bring to light and shed the lying and cheating that’s going on behind the scenes at the Bucs.”

Would he have come forward if he was still working for Brown? “That’s a good question,” said Ruiz, who was not required to sign a non-disclosure as part of his employment. “I don’t know. I can’t answer that.”

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