The Cleveland Browns will be without receiver Antonio Callaway for the first four games of the season, as the second-year pass-catcher was handed a suspension by the NFL for violating its substance abuse policy.
The Browns selected Callaway out of Florida last season in the fourth round with the 105th overall pick. He caught 43 balls for 586 yards five touchdowns last season. Callaway was a controversial choice, having a spotted history with the Gators.
Callaway released a statement through the Browns shortly after the news broke.
“I take full responsibility for my actions. I made a mistake and I own that. I have taken the steps to make myself better and I appreciate the Browns standing by me and supporting me during this time. I know there’s nothing I can say to regain trust; it will all be about my actions.”
Browns general manager John Dorsey also responded to the news.
“We’re disappointed in Antonio. Freddie (Kitchens) and i have had a direct conversation with him about where we stand,” Dorsey said in a statement. He Understands our expectations of him. We will continue to support him as long as he remains committed to taking advantage of the resources made available to him by our club and the league to help him become the best version of himself as a person first and foremost.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said that the Callaway had been previously appealing the ruling.
Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver Depth
The Browns made the biggest splash of the offseason by landing Odell Beckham Jr. in a blockbuster trade with the New York Giants. Cleveland also has perennial Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry occupying what could be seen as the 1b spot on the depth chart.
Callaway was competing to be the team’s No. 3 wide receiver, but had been running with the second unit for a majority of camp. Rashard Higgins, who collected almost 100 yards and a score in the Browns first preseason game, has assumed the No. 3 role for the majority of training camp.
“That is just creating depth,” wide receivers coach Adam Henry told reporters. “You want to see guys with the depth of the receiver group moving along. There are going to be times where now he is just getting a lot of the two reps, but it is a lot of reps. Just getting the reps and the communication of it.”
Antonio Callaway Showed up to Camp ‘out of Shape’
Browns offensive coordinator Todd Monken said Callaway showed up to training camp out of shape.
“To his credit — I shouldn’t say his credit — hell, he came in a little bit out of shape probably,” Monken said. “The last seven days, he’s getting himself back in shape, putting himself in position. You can see that he’s starting to feel more comfortable and make plays.”
Monken, however, was pleased with the potential he saw, and Callaway showed off some of that during the Browns first preseason game on Thursday night. Callaway finished with three catches for 42 yards and a just-miss TD.
“He really has tremendous upside, we all know that, you guys saw it last year. He’s explosive, has really good down-the-field ball-tracking ability, so there’s a lot to like there.”
The Browns are already dealing with a four-game suspension to running back Kareem Hunt. And the team spent years working with receiver Josh Gordon, who was suspended multiple times under the league’s substance abuse policy.