Rookie receiver Antonio Callaway was a starter for the Cleveland Browns during their preseason opener on Thursday, just days after being cited on suspicion of marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license last week.
Callaway, a fourth-round pick out of Florida, was on the field for 54 of his team’s 63 offensive plays during the 20-10 victory over the New York Giants.
Coach Hue Jackson said he gave Callaway the extensive playing time in his first pro game as punishment for his brush for the law and for failing to inform the team of the incident.
“It was [discipline]. I was trying to make him play the whole game if we could. I didn’t want him to come out,” Jackson said Sunday, according to cleveland.com. “That was part of the consequence of what he’d been through, and he knows it. That’s what it was.”
Callaway was a star in his first two seasons with the Gators, becoming the only player in team history to have scored touchdowns by passing, catching, rushing and returning a punt and kickoff.
He didn’t play at all during the 2017 season as a result of his involvement in a credit card scam.
Callaway’s Browns debut got off to a rough start as he couldn’t pull in the first three passes that came his way. But he made up for it in the second half, catching three of the four passes targeted for him, including a 54-yard touchdown from rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield.
“He worked through it ’cause there were times he had his hands on his head like this and he was ready to go to the sideline,” Jackson said of Callaway, who finished with a team-high 87 receiving yards. “We go, ‘Nuh-uh. You’re back in there.’ So he fought through it and came out the other side of it and made some plays. So that was good.”
Callaway suffered a minor rib injury during the game and sat out most of the team drills during Sunday’s practice.