The one-time NFL rushing leader sat out the team’s opening preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday, August 12, after roughly a week of trade speculation. That speculation began when Josina Anderson of CBS Sports reported that Hunt had staged a “hold-in,” refusing to participate in portions of training camp practices as a negotiating tactic and telling teammates he either wanted a new contract or preferred to be traded.
“Browns RB Kareem Hunt — currently seeking a contract extension — did not participate in team drills for the second consecutive practice on Saturday,” Anderson tweeted on August 6. “Hunt told the team multiple times recently, his current plan is to participate in individuals drills only.”
After Hunt missed Friday’s game, Browns’ run game coordinator and running backs coach Stump Mitchell was asked about whether he had discussed Hunt’s situation with the embattled running back since he began to sit out parts of practice sessions.
“No, that is his business. I do not have anything to do with it,” Mitchell said on Monday. “That is all I have to say about that.”
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Hunt Refuses to Speak With Media Following Browns’ Win Over Jags
That Hunt didn’t play against Jacksonville isn’t necessarily a sign of more trouble, as Cleveland’s No. 1 option Nick Chubb was also absent from action. Rookie Jerome Ford took the majority of the snaps, rushing for 57 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, while third-stringer D’Ernest Johnson logged three carries.
However, it is possible to read into the fact that Hunt refused to speak to reporters in the locker room after the team’s 24-13 win over the Jags. Because he didn’t play, Hunt was not mandated to speak with the media. However, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com said the running back passed on a request for comment following the game.
“Browns Kareem Hunt, who’s asked to be traded, said he didn’t want to talk in the locker room after the Jaguars game,” Cabot tweeted Friday.
Browns’ Coaches Say Hunt, Chubb Still Shy of Full Potential
While he wouldn’t speak to the media about Hunt’s contract issues, Mitchell did say that the running back could improve his patience, which would lead to fewer yards left on the field.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski was asked about those comments Monday.
“It does not matter if you are a sixth-year pro or a rookie, [Mitchell] is going to push you,” Stefanski said. “Having said that, [Hunt] is a very good football player. He has been very productive for us, but we do want to make sure that he has the mindset … to improve.”
Mitchell also said that the combination of Hunt and Chubb could receive as many as 70 or 80 plays per game, particularly considering the uncertainty surrounding quarterback Deshaun Watson’s looming suspension and the lack of clarity as to whether Jacoby Brissett will be the long-term answer under center moving forward.
“We will see. I think he is right that [Hunt and Chubb] have not reached their potential. I hope none of us have reached our potential,” Stefanski said. “We think we have a good plan for both of those guys to impact the games because that is ultimately what they do.”