BEREA — The Browns took a risk when they drafted receiver Antonio Callaway in the fourth round in April.
They received a painful reminder of the size of the gamble this week.
Callaway was cited for marijuana possession during a traffic stop early Sunday morning in Strongsville.
To make matters worse, he didn’t inform the team.
Coach Hue Jackson said after practice late Tuesday afternoon he was just finding out about the incident — reporters obtained the police report earlier in the day — and didn’t want to comment too much.
“We’ll have a very strong conversation about it,” Jackson said. “Obviously, I’m disappointed in it, but I need to understand exactly what happened.”
Callaway was stopped at 2:59 a.m. Sunday for failing to yield on Howe Road by the SouthPark Mall, according to the police report. Strongsville Police Officer Eric Schubert cited him for a small amount of suspected marijuana under the driver’s seat and a suspended license.
Callaway is scheduled to appear at Strongsville’s Mayor’s Court on Thursday morning but will likely be represented by an attorney. The Browns’ preseason opener is Thursday night against the Giants in New Jersey.
Jackson said it was too soon to say if Callaway would play, or what punishment he could receive.
The players had a mandated day off from training camp Sunday and no curfew Saturday night.
According to a person familiar with the situation, Callaway’s version of the story is he recently had the car shipped here, hadn’t driven it in awhile and didn’t know what was in it.
Callaway has what some evaluators believe is first-round talent, but his history of off-field trouble caused him to fall in the draft.
He had a diluted sample during a drug test at the scouting combine over the winter. During his time at the University of Florida, he was investigated for a sexual assault but cleared, received a misdemeanor marijuana citation and was suspended for the 2017 season for his involvement in a credit card scam.
Callaway’s past makes the recent incident more alarming.
“Oh, absolutely. No doubt. No doubt,” Jackson said. “We can’t run from that. I mean, obviously the red flag is up.”
Callaway was placed in the league’s substance abuse program after the diluted sample at the combine, which puts him in jeopardy of a suspension for the marijuana citation.
“The matter will be reviewed under the NFL-NFLPA substances of abuse policy,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy told The Chronicle-Telegram in an email.
The timing is terrible, too.
The Browns traded former first-round pick Corey Coleman to the Bills on Sunday night and moved Callaway into his starting spot. Callaway spoke to reporters Monday and said he was “pumped” to play and said it would “be a show” against the Giants. His teammates and coaches praised him over the last two days.
“He’s confident, of course, in his hands, but he has great route-running ability,” quarterback Tyrod Taylor said Tuesday before practice. “He knows, just has a natural feel for the game and knows how to get open.”
“He’s got that explosive-play potential,” rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “He’s got phenomenal speed and so I think he’s a guy that when the lights come on we’re going to be really excited to watch.
“He’s just got that potential, and once you put all those pieces together of knowing what we want to execute, it’s going to be a pretty dangerous duo.”
Callaway practiced as usual Tuesday, lining up at receiver and returning punts.
Because of Callaway’s past, Jackson said he has talked to him quite a bit, which made the news “surprising.”
“He’s been great. We’ve had no slipups, no issues,” Jackson said. “It’s a young player who obviously made a bad decision or bad choice, but I’ve got to find out.”
In April general manager John Dorsey defended his decision to draft Callaway by saying the organization’s strong culture, including receivers coach Adam Henry, would help him stay out of trouble.
“I’m still confident in that,” Jackson said. “I think what John said is absolutely right and I support him 100 percent.
“We’ve been fortunate over the last couple of years where we haven’t had things crop up. I truly believe in our process and how we go about it and how we talk about things. So, again, this is something I’m glad is happening now so we can deal with it and move forward. I think our locker room understands how we handle business. This young man will definitely understand how we handle business, too.”