A skilled newcomer on the Cleveland Browns offense could spell trouble off the field.
The Browns announced Monday Feb. 11 that they signed running back Kareem Hunt to a one-year contract. Hunt has not played since December, after a video of him shoving and kicking a woman at his residence was revealed, causing the Kansas City Chiefs to cut him immediately.
The Browns are clearly an organization in transition. Though far from great, a 7-8-1 record for the 2018 season was a far cry better than the last two: winless in 2018 and a dismal 1-15 in 2017.
A rebuild is well underway in Cleveland, and it apparently includes Hunt, who led the NFL in 2017 in rushing yards as a Chiefs rookie. Hunt will join Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson as starting running backs if he stays with the team into the 2019 regular season, which could be a formidable backfield when all three backs are healthy.
The fact that Hunt is an Ohioan may have pushed toward his signing with the Browns and possible return to the league. Hunt attended Willoughby South High School, just east of Cleveland, and played his college years at the University of Toledo.
The prospect of a native son joining the Browns
may have gathered support or sympathy among those that chose to sign him.
Cleveland’s top brass also undoubtedly had a powerful hand in the acquisition of Hunt. Browns General Manager John Dorsey was the GM of the Chiefs in 2017 when they drafted Hunt in the third round.
According to ESPN, Dorsey has adopted a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to Hunt and off-the-field problems. Dorsey told ESPN that Hunt’s signing is “by no means … a guarantee of anything” and that Hunt will have to re-earn the trust of the Browns.
However exciting the idea of a productive Browns team might be, Hunt’s past issues are unsettling. Instances in high school, a brief suspension at the University of Toledo for an unnamed violation of the football team’s discipline policy, and the revelation of the video that caused Hunt to be cut from the Chiefs nearly ending his NFL career all show a pattern of misbehavior.
The NFL is also investigating past incidents related to Hunt that all include violence. In addition to his own past, Hunt’s family also has a history of issues with the law.
The NFL absolutely must handle this in the correct way. More and more issues with violence and abuse, especially against women, are surfacing in the pasts of athletes. Though the severity of the crimes varies greatly, the process by which these athletes are investigated and punished is largely kept out of the public eye.
If done correctly, the NFL has a chance to not only do the right thing, but perhaps regain some favor lost due to their handling of past incidents of this nature.
The Browns have told ESPN that Hunt is very apologetic and willing to take the steps necessary in his recovery.
Hunt, the Browns, and the NFL all have the chance to grow as a result of this recovery process, but it must be done thoroughly and wholly if it is to accomplish the goals at hand.
Although he is a top-tier running back, Kareem Hunt is a repeat offender and a liability for the Brown’s organization.
If Hunt’s signing does backfire in the form of more issues off the field, we can be assured that he will face harsher punishment, the NFL will hear several new waves of criticism, and the Browns will further become an example of how not to manage a football team.