Less than two months after being released by the Chiefs for kicking and shoving a woman in a Cleveland hotel hallway and lying about it, Kareem Hunt signed a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Browns.
But just because the running back has a new NFL team doesn’t mean he’s been given an automatic second chance, his new coach said.
“I’ve talked to Kareem on several occasions and he’s very remorseful about what he’s done,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said at the NFL Combine on Wednesday. “Now it’s our job to move forward and support him and get him to a place as an individual and as a person to give him the opportunity, a second chance, per se.
“The second chance is not now. He’s got a lot of work to do between now and that time that second chance comes. … Right now, we’re day-to-day and trying to offer him support where he needs to become a better person to be eventually on the field.”
Hunt’s former coach Andy Reid is also a big believer in second chances. In his tenure with the Chiefs, the team drafted Tyreek Hill, who pleaded guilty to domestic abuse of his pregnant girlfriend at Oklahoma State, cornerback Marcus Peters, who was known for his volatile personality, and tight end Travis Kelce, who was kicked off the Cincinnati football team for a season after failing a marijuana test.
“I’m into second chances if guys do the right step to get there,” Reid said. “If you’re wrong, we’re lucky enough in this country where you can right a wrong, and normally somebody will give you an opportunity if you handle it the right way. It’s important that he’s done that legwork and that he continues to do that.
“Right now, he’s in that frame of mind and it’s important he continues on with that.”
Though Hunt has a new team, he’ll try to start over in a familiar place, a place where his actions ultimately led to his release from the Chiefs.
But Kitchens isn’t worried about Hunt returning to the hometown where he derailed his fast-track path to NFL stardom a year ago.
If anything, Kitchens said, being in Cleveland might benefit Hunt.
“I think we have to have a support system in place, which we do,” Kitchens said. “Kareem has to be willing, has to show remorse, be willing to make a change. He’s shown us that. And he can be in Kansas City, Cleveland, that doesn’t matter.
“In a lot of ways, it’s more important for Kareem to make those advances and to evolve into a better person in his hometown. That’s where he’s going to do the most good.”
To make the decision about signing Hunt, the Browns leaned heavily on general manager John Dorsey, who drafted Hunt with the 86th overall pick in 2017 when he was the Chiefs’ general manager.
“John has more information about the person than anybody in the league,” Kitchens said. “In saying that, it’s always a collaborative effort and a collaborative conversation in things like that.”
Though Hunt landed with the Browns, Chicago coach Matt Nagy, who coached Hunt for a season as the Chiefs former offensive coordinator, confirmed there were preliminary conversations about bringing Hunt to the Bears.
“We did discuss it,” Nagy said. “It was something we discussed, but it never became serious for us. That’s about as honest and real as we can get and again, it’s pretty simple.”
In signing him, the Browns made a commitment to Hunt — even if it wasn’t a popular move.
“Anytime there’s a social issue, of course you have to factor in the fact that it may not be accepted in a positive nature,” Kitchens said. “But in saying that, it’s those issues that you can have the biggest growth too. And let’s don’t forget: this is a people business and we’re in the people-building business and then we get to the football later.
“Our foremost thing right now for Kareem Hunt is to offer him support to be the man that he wants to be, and that’s where we’re at.”