EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Browns GM John Dorsey and Hue Jackson believe that Antonio Callaway didn’t smoke marijuana last weekend, but spoke with the rookie receiver on Tuesday night and warned him in no uncertain terms ”that these types of things can’t be tolerated.”
Callaway was pulled over at 2:59 on Sunday morning in Strongsville and accused of marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license. But Dorsey, who met with the media before Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Giants, said he and Jackson “looked at each other and said Callaway was telling the truth.”
Dorsey added, “I believe he did not” smoke marijuana, adding that Callaway “was truly remorseful.”
Callaway, who started Thursday’s game, explained to Dorsey and Jackson that he had just had his car shipped to Cleveland from Florida and didn’t know there was marijuana in it. He had given the same explanation to the police when he was stopped Sunday morning, the player’s night off, on Howe Road in Strongsville.
“I trust the information given to me and what I know,” Jackson said after the 20-10 preseason victory over the Giants in which Callaway caught a 54-yard TD pass. “He’s going to have to earn my trust the rest of the way. We’re not going to deal with anymore of this. This is the end of that.”
Strongsville police found a small amount of marijuana under the seat, enough to charge Callaway with a minor misdemeanor. According to the police’s dash cam video, Callaway also told police that his younger brother had been driving the car and he hadn’t been in it for a while.
Asked if believes a league suspension will be forthcoming, Dorsey said he’d let that situation play out, but he feels ‘pretty optimistic’ Callaway will test negative.
Dorsey said the fact that Callaway didn’t inform the team of the traffic stop “could be a rookie mistake. He’s a young 21-year-old. He doesn’t know the nuances of professional football, but he’s going to have to learn this responsibility very quickly now in light of this situation and in light of his past.”
He was also pleased with the way Callaway addressed the team on Tuesday night about the run-in.
“I will say this, I felt that he did a nice job talking to his teammates, talking about the incident that did occur,” Dorsey said.
The GM said they knew when they drafted the wideout in the fourth round that “Antonio was going to be a work in progress. It’s not going to happen overnight. We try day-in and day-out for him to understand what it takes to be a professional football player and what those rules and responsibility are in terms of working on the little things and I think the message was very stern, it was very clear and, moving forward, these types of incidents can’t occur again.”
As for Callaway being out at 3 a.m. — with a starting job on the line — Dorsey admitted there’s no excuse.
“He did tell Hue what the explanation was, I accept that. I’ll go with that,” he said. “The explanation was a valid one, but he shouldn’t have been out at 3. Your mother told you nothing ever good happens after midnight.”
Given Callaway’s checkered past, Dorsey and Jackson stressed that they have a “low tolerance” level for any more transgressions.
“Especially with Antonio’s situation, considering his past, we thought that was important,” said Dorsey. “We have stated to him, when Hue and I were talking to him, we expressed extreme disappointment and dissatisfaction with the event that occurred that Sunday.”
Callaway, 21, came into the NFL in Stage 1 of the NFL’s substance abuse policy by virtue of his watered-down urine sample at the NFL combine. He later admitted to smoking marijuana a few weeks earlier. He faces a 3/17 fine of his $480,000 salary, or about $84,705. He can also be placed into Stage 2 of the program at the discretion of the medical director.
Dorsey said his decision to trade Corey Coleman on Sunday night might not have been affected if he had known of Callaway’s situation.
“Not necessarily, because I base a lot of things off the talent on the field and I think we have a really nice, young group of receivers who are beginning to develop and I think with Corey’s situation, it gives him a fresh start in Buffalo to see what he can do,” he said. “As we speak, I think there’s some younger talent who can develop faster than the way Corey’s played.”
As for essentially giving Coleman away, he said, “I think we’ve had a long enough time to evaluate his skill sets and in combination with the coaching staff and personnel staff we think a fresh start would probably be best for him.”