Cleveland Browns wide receiver Antonio Callaway will be suspended for the first four games of the 2019 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
The news was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
Sources: #Browns WR Antonio Callaway is being suspended 4 games for a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He had been appealing this ruling. This may party explain why he’s been running with the reserves.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 9, 2019
The Browns then confirmed the suspension:
WR Antonio Callaway has been suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the 2019 regular season— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 9, 2019
Details » https://t.co/5WXiSGrDut pic.twitter.com/7XFuBuIgI4
Callaway will be allowed to participate in all preseason practices and games, but will not be eligible to return to the active roster under September 30, the day after the Browns play a road game against the Baltimore Ravens.
According to NFL.com’s Kevin Patra, the suspension is a result of Callaway being cited for marijuana possession and with a suspended license in August of 2018.
However, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo says that the suspension is for a separate violation:
On #Browns WR Antonio Callaway's suspension: Sources say it is for a separate violation of the substance abuse policy, unrelated to his citation for marijuana possession last year. Got my signals crossed on that. Deleted earlier tweets to avoid confusion. Apologies for the error.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 9, 2019
Callaway played in Cleveland’s preseason opener on Thursday night, finishing with three receptions for 42 yards on seven targets.
The Browns released a statement from Callaway on the team’s website:
“I take full responsibility for my actions. I made a mistake and I own that. I have taken steps to make myself better and I appreciate the Browns standing by me and supporting me during this time. I know there’s nothing I can say to regain trust; it will all be about my actions.”
The team also released a statement from general manager John Dorsey:
“We’re disappointed in Antonio. Freddie and I have had a direct conversation with him about where we stand. He understands our expectations of him. We will continue to support him as long as he remains committed to taking advantage of the resources made available to him by our club and the league to help him become the best version of himself as a person first and foremost.”
There have been questions in recent days about Callaway’s status as he has seen practice reps go to players such as Derrick Willies and Jaelen Strong. He was also called out by offensive coordinator Todd Monken for showing up to training camp out of shape.
This is not the first time that Callaway has had an off-field issue.
He was suspended for multiple off-field incidents during his senior season at Florida in 2017 and tested positive for a diluted drug-test sample at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.
Despite that, Dorsey - who has publicly stated his desire for selecting “men of character” - drafted Callaway in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In the incident from last summer, Callaway was cited for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license by police in the Cleveland suburb of Strongsville. The marijuana possession charge was eventually dropped, but Callaway still pled guilty to driving with a suspended license, which resulted in a year of probation and a fine.
Callaway did not tell the team about the citation, which did not go over very well with then-head coach Hue Jackson and Dorsey. The team did not discipline him, however, and Callaway went on to have 43 receptions for 586 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie.
Now, he will be out for the first four games of the season. It will be interesting to see how Dorsey handles any further discipline after that for Callaway.