The Cleveland Browns made the controversial decision to bring on free agent Kareem Hunt this offseason, just months after a disturbing video of the running back kicking and shoving a woman in a Cleveland hotel was released.
Hunt was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs shortly after the video went public, but Browns general manager John Dorsey — who drafted Hunt during his time with the Chiefs — decided to give the Pro Bowler another chance.
For the first time, Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam addressed the topic of having Hunt on the team at training camp on Sunday.
“We know that Kareem has work to do and he’s in counseling working really hard,” Dee Haslam said. “It’s up to him. It truly is up to him. We have high expectations for our players.
“You have to take the situation very, very, very seriously. We spent a lot of time and John (Dorsey) spent a lot of time with Kareem. We felt like he has potential as a person, which is obviously as important as a player. He needs to continue to work really hard to be a member of our organization.”
Browns Want Hunt to Stay With Team During Suspension
Hunt was handed an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, but should be a key contributor down the stretch as the Browns look to break a 16-season playoff drought.
Hunt’s numbers on the field have been gaudy. In his first two seasons, the Toledo product racked up 2,151 rushing yards, 833 receiving yards. He made the Pro Bowl in 2017 as the league’s leading rusher and was on pace for another strong season before being let go by the Chiefs.
The Haslams said that talks are ongoing with the league and NFLPA to be able to have Hunt remain with franchise during his upcoming half-season ban for support. Usually, players are not allowed at team activities or at the facilities during a suspension.
“Those talks are still ongoing,” Jimmy Haslam said. “The league has the final call.”
Kitchens, Dorsey Break Silence on TMZ Video of Hunt
On July 1, TMZ released a video Hunt speaking with police following an alleged incident at a Cleveland bar. A Cleveland police spokeswoman told Heavy there was not a police report following what was initially rumored to be a bar fight, and it was later revealed to be just a “small argument” with one of his friends.
It still wasn’t a good look for the Browns running back, leading to Dorsey and head coach Freddie Kitchens addressing it at their opening press conference at training camp.
“We understood what the facts were,” Dorsey said. “He understands there’s no guarantees in life. He’s working his fanny off on the field and off-the-field as well.”
Kitchens showed a bit of sympathy for his running back, knowing nothing is easy for high-profile players in the public eye in this day and age of technology.
“It’s never been harder to be a player in the National Football League,” Kitchens said. “Everything they do is under a microscope and with the advancements of social media and all that kind of stuff, every little thing — doesn’t matter how little or how small — it’s always going to made into a bigger deal. Kareem is always going to have our support. We are going to continue to support him just like we do every player we have. I’ll reiterate that we want them to be a better person 50 years from now and still be able to sustain and be successful in life instead of just worrying about right now.”
Both Kitchens and Dorsey attended Hunt’s baptism this offseason, surprising the running back with the strong show of support.
“It was about Kareem as a person,” Kitchens said. “That’s where it’s going to start with us. I’ve said that from the get-go.”