A new wrinkle has been added to the mystery surrounding the diminished role of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins.
Higgins, who has earned a reputation as a security blanket for quarterback Baker Mayfield thanks to their great chemistry, has been MIA this season thanks in part to injury and the lack of opportunity.
Higgins missed five games with a sprained MCL he suffered in the team’s opener against the Titans, but since being back, he’s been targeted just three times.
This is coming off a year where he had 39 catches for 572 yards and 4 touchdowns — all career highs.
Both head coach Freddie Kitchens — who also calls the offensive plays — and Higgins have been relatively quiet about the situation.
However, there was a strange exchange the Browns skipper had with reporters regarding Higgins suiting up but did not seeing the field against the Seahawks.
The Mystery Surrounding Rashard Higgins Grows
Higgins initially told reporters he didn’t know why he didn’t get on the field for a single snap. A few weeks later, Kitchens seemed to throw a bit of shade the veteran pass-catcher when asked why Antonio Callaway was receiving more work than Higgins.
“We feel like he’s doing a better job right now,” Kitchens said of Callaway. “Contrary to popular belief, Higgins was not ready to play three weeks ago. Ask Higgins again about two weeks ago, he might have a different answer now.”
Now comes the doozy: Higgins had declined to go into the game against the Seahawks, according to The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd.
Here’s what Lloyd reported in full on Friday regarding Higgins absence in the offense.
Multiple sources told The Athletic in recent weeks that Higgins was told to go into the game and declined. The reasons behind it remain a mystery. When I pressed him again about it this week, Higgins refused to talk about the Seattle game.
The game against the Seahawks came before the trade deadline, so maybe it was possible Higgins was posturing for a flight out of town with his name already swirling in rumors. He has not addressed the subject of playing time since.
Browns Admit Frustration With Rashard Higgins Situation
With the Browns offense floundering and Mayfield in need of a go-to guy in clutch situations, Higgins would be a welcomed addition to the offense in a bigger role.
But as Browns offensive coordinator Todd Monken put it, the situation has been frustrating due to multiple factors.
“Obviously, last year, they also did not have Odell. That is part of it as well. You had some other guys that were more role players. All of a sudden a player’s role changes and he is trying to find a niche, and we are, too,” Monken said. “It is a little more complicated than that, but obviously, he is a guy that Baker has real comfort in. We do have to get him more involved. We do. You are right. Have him a bigger factor in what we do. It is only so much you can do. Like I said before, one ball, but it has been frustrating I am sure for him and for us.”
Higgins will have another chance to get on the field this week as the Browns host the Bills as 3-point favorites at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday.