It’s no secret John Dorsey has something of an affinity towards players that have somewhat troubled pasts. Signing running back Kareem Hunt to a vet minimum contract after he was released from Kansas City for assaulting a woman in a Cleveland hotel. Agreeing to a three-year contract with Sheldon Richardson, someone who once resisted arrest by going 143 miles per hour in his car, occupied with a 12-year-old in the backseat. Drafting Antonio Callaway in the fourth round of the 2018 draft was a head-scratcher to many, as his many off-the-field transgressions, including and not limited to: possible sexual assault that he was cleared of in a Title XI hearing, a credit card scam to bolster bookstore accounts, and misdemeanor marijuana charges, teams removing him from their draft boards completely. Nevertheless, Dorsey selected the mercurial wide receiver, who many believe had first-round talent if he had kept his record clean. at the beginning of Day 3 of the draft.
Callaway had a decent rookie campaign, catching 43 of 79 targets (54.4 catch percentage, same as Jarvis Landry’s) for 586 yards and five touchdowns. His speed was impressive as he was able to take the top off of opposing defenses, recording the longest reception of the season for any Browns receiver. But the season wasn’t without its hiccups for Callaway. Before the scouting combine, Callaway presented a diluted sample, something he admitted to was due to an attempt to mask his marijuana use. In August of 2018, he was cited for driving with a suspended license and marijuana possession. His “punishment” from then-head-coach Hue Jackson for the incident was to play the entirety of the preseason game versus the New York Giants, something players rarely due that early into training camp.1
Earlier this week, Callaway was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, but according to a source from cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, “Callaway hasn’t failed a drug test since the end of last season.” The wording of this is a bit tenuous, as it implies he tested positive previously but not since the season ended, but since the public was not made aware of any failed tests, we are left to assume the positive test of the diluted sample was his first.2 The NFL keeps much of their substance abuse policies in the dark, mostly for the player’s protection, but due to the diluted sample at the combine, Callaway entered the league in Stage One, and the incident that raised him to Stage Two and earned him the four-game suspension is not yet known. If Callaway does transgress again, he will be, or could already be, in Stage Three, which would trigger a 10-game suspension. The team and front office, headed by Dorsey, is attempting to petition the league to allow Callaway to stay with the team and allow him to participate in practices and keep him going in the treatment and programs he has been in since arriving in Cleveland.
The suspension aside, Callaway is also now dealing with a high ankle sprain suffered in the preseason Week 1 matchup against the Washington Redskins. The ongoing training camp battle for the No. 3 wide receiver was a good one, with Callaway going up against Rashard Higgins, with Higgins getting the better end of most of it, but now looks finished. Callaway was listed as 10th and had the injury designation around his name on the Browns latest unofficial depth chart previous to the upcoming matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. With fellow wideouts Jaelen Strong and Derrick Willies having great camps as well, Callaway seems behind the eight ball when it comes to the roster crunch.
Head coach Freddie Kitchens has said a lot of the things you expect him to say in regards to Callaway, offering up continued support but not committing to Callaway’s presence on the roster and whether or not the suspension was known about ahead of time. John Dorsey has had similar quotes, and the team is attempting to make sure he stays on the straight and narrow. However, talent will only take a player so far, and with injuries mounting and suspensions triggering, Callaway’s days in the brown and orange might be numbered.