Kareem Hunt, a prominent member of the Cleveland Browns‘ offense, addressed the possible suspension of Deshaun Watson this week — one of the quarterback’s first teammates to speak in depth on the issue publicly.
The running back spoke with Ashley Bastock of Cleveland.com on Wednesday, June 29, from his youth football camp at Willoughby South High School. Hunt discussed an array of topics, including Watson’s disciplinary hearing and pending punishment for violations of the NFL’s player conduct policy, the struggles the Browns have faced amid the constant Baker Mayfield trade drama, and Hunt’s own recovery from injuries to his ankle and calf last season.
“It’s definitely stressful for them,” Hunt said of the Browns organizational leadership and their attempts to navigate the offseason amid the uncertainty surrounding Watson. “It’s tough because they’re trying to figure out what pieces they’ve got for the season and what plays they want to put in. You know, there’s different plays for Deshaun and Jacoby [Brissett], different playbook, different things we can do at quarterback.”
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Hunt Speaks to Chances Watson Could Miss Entire 2022 Season
Watson’s suspension could span the entirety of next season if the NFL has its way. The league has pushed for an indefinite suspension, per a report from the Associated Press, though an independent arbiter will decide the quarterback’s punishment after 24 separate women have accused him of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to assault.
Twenty of those 24 civil cases were recently settled, and Watson does not currently face any criminal charges in Texas where the alleged incidents are said to have taken place.
Hunt spoke on Wednesday about the potential that Watson might miss the entire year.
I mean, I really don’t know too much about the whole situation. If he misses it, it’s a next-man-up mentality. I’m going to be ready to play, and I know the rest of the team is still going to be ready to play. We didn’t have Deshaun last year or the years before.
We do [talk about the situation], but we’re more worried about ourselves. It’s a business, man, that’s the biggest thing. You’ve got to worry about yourself, because if you don’t, you could not be here.
Hunt added that he has spoken to Watson directly, with whom he is likely to share the Browns’ backfield for at least some portion of the season.
“Yeah, we talked a little bit, for sure,” Hunt said. “I’m going to keep it between us, but yeah, it’s a lot. So I just wish him the best, tell him to keep his head up and hopefully things work out.”
Hunt Offers Insight on Baker Mayfield’s Health Status
Hunt acknowledged that there has been an adjustment period after the mid-March whirlwind that saw the Browns trade for Watson and shelve Mayfield, who remains a member of the roster despite several attempts by Cleveland to deal him elsewhere.
Mayfield injured his shoulder early last season, an issue that presumably hampered his play to a meaningful degree. Hunt said Wednesday that he had recently spoken with Mayfield about his health condition.
“I talked to him a month or two ago,” Hunt said. “He’s doing good. He was saying he’s healed up pretty nice from the surgery he had. He’s good now.”
That news is valuable for two reasons. First, Mayfield will be easier to sell as a solution to the Carolina Panthers or Seattle Seahawks if he is 100% healthy. Second, a healthy Mayfield means the Browns have a proven starter to fill in for Watson should he miss significant time.
The team has made it known that Brissett will be the starter moving forward if Watson is absent, while Mayfield said he does not intend to play another snap in Cleveland. But things move fast in the NFL and with more than two months to go until the start of the regular season, it appears far too early to rule out any outcome completely.