CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns stood by wide receiver Antonio Callaway even after he was hit with a four-game suspension for a failed drug test, an issue that came on the heels of a host of off-the-field problems that got him thrown off the team at the University of Florida and dropped him to a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft despite his having first-round talent.
But something happened in the days leading up to Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills that was more than the Browns’ coaching staff was willing to accept, and the decision was made to deactivate him for the contest, which Cleveland won, 19-16, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
“I always want our guys to make good choices,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said in a conference call with the Cleveland media Monday. “I am not going to talk anymore about that situation. I did what I felt like I needed to do, and it is over.”
RELATED | Baker Mayfield: Win over Buffalo Bills can ‘get Cleveland Browns going’ in second half of season
Although Kitchens would not go into detail about the issue that led to Callaway’s deactivation, he did say “it was only for yesterday,” that is unless the second-year receiver does something to warrant another appearance on the inactive list.
“I do not know if he had gotten the message or not, but I am not wavering,” Kitchens said. “What Antonio and I talk about stays between Antonio and I.”
RELATED | The Baker Mayfield Report: Cleveland Browns QB throws multiple touchdowns in win over Buffalo Bills
After missing the first four games of the season because of the suspension, Callaway returned to play the San Francisco 49ers on “Monday Night Football.” However, it was anything but a happy homecoming, as Callaway had a red zone pass tip off his hands and chest, which allowed a defender to take away an interception.
Also, Callaway was the intended target on quarterback Baker Mayfield’s second interception against the 49ers.
Additionally, Callaway appeared to not have a grasp of the formations and game plan against San Francisco, as he needed help from fellow wide receiver Jarvis Landry to get lined up properly before the snap.
In four games since making his return, Callaway has made just eight catches for 89 yards with no touchdowns.
Despite Callaway’s absence, Mayfield spread the ball around to six different players against the Bills on the way to completing 26 of his 38 attempts for 238 yards with two touchdowns and his second straight game without a turnover.
“Flush it,” Mayfield said following the game of how he handled Callaway being deactivated. “Be able to say next man up mentality. Things that I have said before.
“We are counting on somebody else to step up and make a play for us. Whoever that is, they need to know that. Obviously, he was going to be a part of the game plan, but things happen, and (Damion) Ratley was able to come in, step up and be active for us.”
RELATED | ‘Red carpet was open.’ Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield glad to have Rashard Higgins back in the fold
RELATED | ‘This is what I love to do.’ Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt happy to be back on football field