Here’s something you don’t see every day. Evidently, the Cleveland Browns used playing time as a means of discipline for their rookie wide receiver, Antonio Callaway, who played very extensively during the team’s opening preseason game last week. The late-round pick, who had a number of off-field issues in college, had another one earlier in the week.
“That was part of the consequence of what he has been through, and he knows it”, Head Coach Hue Jackson said of the team’s decision to play the rookie from the start of the game through to the end. In doing so, he confirmed that it is a form of punishment to play for the Browns, who have won just a single game over the past two years.
I kid, of course, but this is a bit of an unorthodox means of discipline that generally works the other way. When players run afoul, they typically see their playing time taken away, even if it is for a play, a series, a quarter, a half, or even a game. Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin benched Martavis Bryant for a game in 2017, and did the same for Eli Rogers the year before. It’s something he has done a number of times over the years.
“That is what it was”, Jackson continued about Callaway’s playing time against the New York Giants. “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’”.
As a consequence of that, the rookie has been nursing a minor injury, but has still been pushing through during practice to be a full participant. “I am glad that he is out there trying and competing and going and catching”, Jackson said of that. “He has got to learn that sometimes you have to play with those things a little bit. We will get through it”.
The Browns took a real chance when drafting him knowing the sort of issues that he has had off the field, but at this point Callaway may well end up playing a critical role for the team this season with the tumult over Josh Gordon’s status and the trading of Corey Coleman. They have Jarvis Landry, but even if they end up signing Dez Bryant, the rookie could still be the number three target.
Callaway caught three passes during his preseason debut last week for 87 yards. One of those three catches was a 54-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that he caught from the first-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, quarterback Baker Mayfield.