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Hue Jackson missed an opportunity to help Antonio Callaway

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Last time we checked, forcing a professional football player to, you know, play the majority of a football game is not a punishment.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Browns head coach Hue Jackson really showed rookie receiver Antonio Callaway, and his team who’s boss, didn’t he?

While the NFL is unlikely to discipline Callaway for his recent marijuana possession and driving with a suspended driver’s license citations, there was hope that the Browns would take some kind of internal action to hold the young man accountable.

Accountability, apparently, to Jackson means giving the young receiver more playing time.

“That was part of the consequence of what he has been through, and he knows it. That is what it was,” Jackson said on Sunday to reporters. “Either you sit him or make him play. I thought it was better to make him play.

“Make him play as long as he could. There were a couple of times he kept waving to come out, and we said, ‘No, stay in.’”

In what world is forcing a football player to play the sport he’s paid to play any form of a punishment? What kind of message does that send to Callaway and to the team?

Callaway has been off the field for over a year because of bad decisions he has made in his past. So playing him as a much as Jackson did should have happened either way, especially considering the team’s depth at wide receiver, his lengthy layoff from the game, and after some early drops and miscues.

Are we supposed to believe this coach, who was openly mocked by offensive coordinator Todd Haley on “Hard Knocks” Episode 1 for him preventatively resting players, is really using an effective tool for managing player discipline?

Callaway, who has been a repeat offender for marijuana use in college and now in the NFL—he also failed a drug test many refer to as an “IQ test” at the NFL combine—is not going to learn how to conduct himself with this type of poor leadership by his coach.

In what world is playing time an effective punishment?

If the Browns are truly serious about helping their team become competitive again, and about helping Callaway, they need to be harder on him. Coddling him and not punishing him with any kind of real punishment will only enable him further. Until he sees real consequences for his actions it’s unclear whether he’ll get the message and start to make smarter decisions.

Jaguars Pro Bowler Jalen Ramsey was suspended by his team for criticizing the media, which was “conduct unbecoming of a Jaguars football player.” Imagine Jackson trying to administer any kind of punishment for a similar offense after gently sweeping Callaway’s transgression under the rug.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, and maybe Callaway got a little more winded than his teammates at MetLife last Thursday, but Jackson could and should have done better.