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Kitchens 'not wavering' on benching Antonio Callaway

After two months of public clamoring for more opportunities for Rashard Higgins, Browns fans entered their fever dream Sunday when Higgins caught the team's game-winning touchdown.

The score snapped Cleveland's four-game losing streak and earned the team's first home win of 2019. It's unlikely it would have happened had Antonio Callaway been available to play.

The Florida product did not dress Sunday, making a surprise appearance on the team's pregame inactives list. Browns coach Freddie Kitchens at least partially explained Callaway's absence Monday, telling reporters during a conference call that he benched the second-year wideout as a punishment for an undisclosed issue.

"I don't know if he got the message or not," Kitchens said, via the Associated Press' Tom Withers. "But I'm not wavering."

Callaway's benching is the second time in which he's been unavailable to play because of his own actions. The receiver served a four-game suspension to start the season due to a violation of the league's policy and program for substances of abuse.

When he returned, he was clearly unprepared to play, confusing his assignment and alignment on multiple downs in Cleveland's Week 5 loss to San Francisco and dropping what would have been a touchdown reception on the goal line. The blunder not only cost the Browns a score, but also resulted in an interception, thanks to the upward deflection off Callaway's hands.

It's been a work in progress since then, as the receiver has repeatedly shown flashes of the talent that convinced Browns general manager John Dorsey to take a risk on him in the fourth round of the 2018 draft, despite Callaway's past off-field transgressions. Too often, though, the receiver has found himself in hot water with either law enforcement, the NFL, or now, his own coaching staff.

Kitchens refused to elaborate on the cause of Callaway's benching, instead emphasizing that he hopes his decision made an impact on the young receiver.

"I always want our players to make good choices," Kitchens said. "I did what I felt like I needed to do. It's over."

Callaway has eight catches for 89 yards in four games (two starts) in 2019.

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