It has been said of professional athletes that the amount of off-field bad behavior they can get away withis directly correlated with how much talent they have in the game.
So to the surprise of nobody who’s been paying attention, Kareem Hunt, who got drummed off the Kansas City Chiefs in November when video surfaced of him shoving and kicking a woman in a hotel lobby early last year, found himself a new team to play for.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Monday that Hunt has signed a one-year deal worth “more than $1 million not factoring in the suspension” to play for the Cleveland Browns.
Browns General Manager John Dorsey, aware of the inevitable firestorm of controversy sure to accompany the signing, issued a statement.
“My relationship and interaction with Kareem since 2016 in college was an important part of this decision-making process, but we then did extensive due diligence with many individuals, including clinical professionals, to have a better understanding of the person he is today and whether it was prudent to sign him,” Dorsey said, according to ClevelandBrowns.com.
“There were two important factors: One is that Kareem took full responsibility for his egregious actions and showed true remorse and secondly, just as importantly, he is undergoing and is committed to necessary professional treatment and a plan that has been clearly laid out.
“We fully understand and respect the complexity of questions and issues in signing a player with Kareem’s history and do not condone his actions. Given what we know about Kareem through our extensive research, we believe he deserves a second chance but certainly with the understanding that he has to go through critical and essential steps to become a performing member of this organization, aside from what the NFL determines from their ongoing investigation.”
Meanwhile, Hunt remains on the NFL’s “commissioner’s exempt list,” a holding pen of sorts where players facing league investigations are ruled ineligible to play until those investigations are completed.
A source familiar with the investigative process told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that the ongoing discipline process is “nowhere near done,” but the investigation taking the entire offseason before training camp begins in July seems unlikely.
Hunt’s own statement released with Dorsey’s followed the contrition line to the letter.
“First off, I would like to once again apologize for my actions last year. What I did was wrong and inexcusable. That is not the man I was raised to be, and I’ve learned a great deal from that experience and certainly should have been more truthful about it after the fact. I’m extremely grateful that John Dorsey, Dee and Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns organization are granting me the opportunity to earn their trust and represent their organization in the best way possible on and off the field,” he said.
“I am committed to following the necessary steps to learn and to be a better and healthier person from this situation. I also understand the expectations that the Browns have clearly laid out and that I have to earn my way back to the NFL. I’m a work in progress as a person, but I’m committed to taking advantage of the support systems that I have in place to become the best and healthier version of myself.”
Whether this was Hunt saying what Dorsey wanted or needed to hear or whether he’s shown genuine contrition will be up to his future actions to bear out.
Hunt is an Ohio native, and the incident that got him kicked off the Chiefs happened in Cleveland. Whether he can rehabilitate himself in the same area where his troubles occurred remains to be seen.
The Browns, meanwhile, seem intent on holding Hunt to a high standard.
“We fully understand that Kareem is subject to discipline by the NFL,” Dorsey said in the statement. “Here at the Browns, there is a detailed plan with expectations laid out that he understands and must follow, because any similar incident will not be tolerated. We will support Kareem through this process and utilize our resources, however permitted, to help him become successful on and off the field as long as he continues to show the commitment necessary to represent this organization.”
Hunt rushed for 1,327 yards as a rookie, scoring eight touchdowns on the ground as the Chiefs made a playoff run. His work during the season was a key factor in the Chiefs reaching the AFC Championship Game before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots in overtime.
The Browns are hoping Hunt will have a similar effect alongside electric quarterback Baker Mayfield as Browns interim head coach Gregg Williams won more games in eight tries (five) than previous coach Hue Jackson did in 40 (three.)
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