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On Monday, rookie wide receiver Antonio Callaway was reportedly “rocketing up” to the top of the Browns' depth chart. On Tuesday, it came out that he may have already blown his chance to start.
The fourth-round pick out of Florida was cited for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license around 3 a.m. on Sunday. It also looks like he may have to miss his first NFL preseason game on Thursday, as his court hearing is scheduled for that morning.
What's sad about this situation is that it didn't come as a surprise.
Callaway had failed a drug test at the NFL combine less than five months ago, which was concerning because every prospect knew they were going to be drug tested at the event.
Callaway's checkered past goes back even farther than that though. He was suspended for Florida's 2017 season as part of an investigation into felony credit card fraud and was cited for marijuana possession in May 2017. He also was part of a Title IX investigation in 2016 that revolved around sexual battery.
The Browns, more so than any NFL team, know they have to take this situation seriously. Why? Because they had to deal with the same kind of behavior in Josh Gordon.
In college, Gordon was caught two times with marijuana and his troubles only escalated when he got to the NFL. In his second season, he was suspended for the first two games of the 2013 season due to a violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy and in the following offseason, was arrested for driving while impaired.
In 2014, he was suspended for 10 games because of the NFL's drug policy, and when he came back later that season, missed the final game due to a violation of team rules.
In 2015, he was suspended an entire year due to testing positive from alcohol use. When he applied to be reinstated in 2016, he was denied because of another failed drug test.
Gordon realized he was out of chances, and seems to have finally gotten his act together. He is back in the NFL and will play for the Browns in 2018.
Looking at the games Gordon did play in however, the questions begs to be asked, how good could he have been if he hadn't been involved with drugs and alcohol? In weeks 12 and 13 of the 2013 NFL season, he recorded 237 and 261 yards receiving, becoming the first receiver in NFL history to record back-to-back games with at least 200 receiving yards. Gordon was dominant on the field, but due to his problems off the field, he lost a lot of potential money and the Browns missed out on a franchise cornerstone.
Like Gordon, Callaway is also an incredibly talented receiver. He put up 1,399 yards and eight touchdowns in his two years at Florida, and was one of their most dynamic players. If the Browns want to hold on to the rookie who has been pushing for a starting receiver spot just one week into training camp, they have to get him help and also give him an ultimatum.
The Browns have to clearly communicate to Callaway that they aren't going to deal with another player who isn't showing the dedication necessary to be successful in the NFL. His past itself should result in him having a short leash, and how the Browns' management decides to resolve this matter is going to say a lot about how serious they are with controlling their troubled players.
When Browns head coach Hue Jackson was asked about the situation on Tuesday, he repeated multiple times, “I need to know more about it.” Here are the facts: a troubled kid on your roster who has had multiple marijuana violations was found with marijuana in his car late at night. I'm not sure what other details he's wanting to know.
I should point out that Callaway did try to make an excuse for the incident.
I would be a lot more inclined to believe this if Callaway wasn't already in stage one of the NFL's substance abuse program.
Callaway is an incredibly gifted receiver and has the potential to be a very good NFL player. It's just a shame that he couldn't even get to his first preseason game without a run-in with the law.
If the Browns care about him, they will get him help, but more importantly, they will give him an ultimatum. If he continues to have problems off the field, his days in the NFL are numbered. This will hopefully force the rookie receiver to start taking his career seriously before it's too late.