BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns are willing to help wide receiver Antonio Callaway through his league-mandated four-game suspension if the second-year pass catcher is committed to changing his ways off the field.
One year after being cited for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license just months after the end of a troubled career at the University of Florida, Callaway failed a drug test and will miss the first quarter of the 2019 regular season.
“We are going to continue to support Antonio,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said after Friday’s practice. “He knows what he has to do, and hopefully, he does it. Hopefully, he is committed enough to do it.
“We are not willing to put up with it. The person that has been affected has to be willing to commit to doing what is right. If he is willing to commit to doing what is right, then we are willing to support him in every way that we can.
“That is what we are going to do until he proves us wrong. He knows what he has to do, so we will evaluate the situation as it goes forward.”
Callaway’s career with the Browns had a rocky start as the fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft was cited in the Cleveland suburb of Strongsville for multiple violations in the early-morning hours on a day off from training camp.
Despite the early mistake extending a pattern of off-the-field incidents from college that dropped his stock in the draft, Callaway turned in a solid rookie season with 43 receptions for 586 yards, five touchdowns and 27 first downs in 16 games.
“I like the kid,” Kitchens said. “I think he is a good person. Sometimes, people lump these sort of things into being a bad person. This is a great kid now. We are going to support him until he proves us otherwise. He knows what he has to do, though.
“I am about moving forward from here on since he has been with us. That is it. That is the only thing that I am concerned about.”
Kitchens promised the team would have to handle some kind of adversity through the course of the 2019 season, and his words already have proven true.
The Browns learned Friday, less than 24 hours after opening the preseason with a 30-10 victory over the Washington football team, that Callaway would miss the first four games of the 2019 season while serving a suspension for testing positive for a substance of abuse.
And now, Kitchens will look to see what kind of team the Browns truly have as the players and coaches face this latest challenge.
“I think anytime anything happens out of the norm, it could be viewed as adversity,” Kitchens said. “It is only adversity if you let it affect you. Yeah, I think so. I hope so because it is something out of the norm. I fully expect us to handle it very well.
“That is what we have been preparing to do. I said from the beginning, I can’t wait to see what kind of team we have when adversity hits because that is going to let you know what you are kind of looking into the future and seeing what you have. We will see how we respond.”