CLEVELAND — The Browns ran out of patience and receiver Antonio Callaway ran out of second chances.
Callaway was waived Thursday afternoon, hours before the game against the Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Callaway was benched Sunday for the game against the Bills after arriving late to the stadium. He was late again during the week — a chronic problem — and faces a potential 10-game drug suspension, a league source confirmed to The Chronicle-Telegram.
Callaway, who failed a drug test at the scouting combine in 2018, has failed two tests since entering the NFL. He opened this season by serving a four-game drug suspension and has appealed the 10-game punishment.
Cleveland.com reported Callaway inadvertently used a tainted CBD edible product over the summer to deal with pain from a high ankle sprain.
The Browns used Callaway’s roster spot to activate rookie offensive lineman Drew Forbes off injured reserve.
Coach Freddie Kitchens called Callaway’s benching against the Bills a one-week punishment Monday, but Callaway didn’t respond as desired.
“I do not know if he had gotten the message or not, but I am not wavering,” Kitchens said Monday.
Callaway was a fourth-round pick in 2018. He had first-round talent but slid because of a series of off-field problems, including being suspended for his final season at the University of Florida for his involvement in a credit card scam.
After the four-game suspension to start this season, he assumed the role of No. 3 wideout but struggled with inconsistency. He started two of four games, catching eight passes for 89 yards.
Without Callaway, Rashard Higgins will likely get the majority of the repetitions as the third receiver behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Running back Kareem Hunt could also get some snaps in the role.
Callaway (5-foot-11, 200 pounds) has elite speed and burst, which was evident when he caught a 47-yard touchdown late in a loss to the Saints in Week 2 last year. He started 11 of 16 games as a rookie with 43 catches for 586 yards and five touchdowns.
Despite the talent, questions about his attitude, commitment and off-field behavior never went away. He showed up for training camp this year out of shape, according to coordinator Todd Monken, and wasn’t the reliable target quarterback Baker Mayfield expected.
In Callaway’s debut this season, he turned a touchdown into an interception when he failed to catch a pass at the goal line in the first half of a 31-3 loss to the 49ers. The ball went off his hands and into the air for the pick that led to a 14-point swing Monken called “catastrophic.”
General manager John Dorsey traded picks Nos. 114 (fourth round) and 178 (sixth round) to the Patriots to move up nine spots to take Callaway at No. 105.
“I’m very excited to get a guy of this caliber and his talent at the round we thought,” Dorsey said in the moments after drafting Callaway. “We thought based on things that have happened in the past and based on his ability, that fourth round is probably right where you get a guy like this.
“This kid will be driven to prove to people that ‘I made a mistake but I’m excited to be a Cleveland Brown.’”