When the Cleveland Browns played their preseason opener against the New York Giants on Thursday night, rookie fourth-round pick Antonio Callaway played nearly every snap on offense.
If this was a November game against Pittsburgh, it’d be a sign Callaway was having a great first season.
But this isn’t November, and Callaway wasn’t being rewarded.
Punishment for possession
A week ago Sunday, Callaway was pulled over by police in Strongsville, Ohio, near the Browns’ facility in Berea, just before 3 a.m. He was cited for having a small amount of marijuana and for driving with a suspended license.
The marijuana offense was only a minor misdemeanor because it was such a small amount. Callaway said his car had just been shipped up from Florida and that he didn’t know the marijuana was in it.
But Callaway didn’t tell coach Hue Jackson or general manager John Dorsey about the incident.
As punishment, Jackson decided to make Callaway play 54 of 63 snaps against the Giants.
“That was part of the consequence of what he had been through, and he knows it. That is what it was,” Jackson said. “Either you sit him or make him play. I thought it was better to make him play. Make him play as long as he could. There were a couple of times he kept waving to come out, and we said, ‘No, stay in there.'”
Jackson was trying to make Callaway play the whole game and didn’t want him to come out.
Callaway had three catches (on seven targets) for 87 yards and a touchdown.
It certainly was an unorthodox decision for Jackson and his coaching staff; generally, players are punished by having their playing time taken away, not by being given more.
On one hand, Callaway likely got the message, especially when he was fatigued, but is it a punishment to tell a football player to play football? And did other Browns receivers miss out on a chance to get needed snaps because of Callaway’s “punishment”?
“I’m still 100 percent committed to the Browns,” Callaway said after Thursday’s game. “I’m still focusing. I hate the negative light had to shine on the Browns, but I’m doing whatever I have to do to gain my coaches and my teammates’ trust back. So that won’t happen again.”
Callaway has to build trust
Callaway’s citation may have been minor, but he can’t be helping himself in the eyes of Jackson, Dorsey and the rest of the team. He didn’t tell them about the incident, saying, “I just thought it was a regular traffic stop.”
But Callaway entered the NFL in Stage 1 of the drug program because he had a watered-down sample at the scouting combine. Jackson and Dorsey said they believed Callaway’s story and that he’d have a clean urine sample if tested.
Callaway also missed all of last season with the Florida Gators because of suspension; he was involved in using stolen credit card information to fund his school bookstore account and buying a laptop and headphones.
In 2016, he was suspended for part of the season after being accused of sexual assault. He was cleared by a Gators football and basketball booster who heard the case.
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