Running back Kareem Hunt won’t be eligible to play for the Browns until November.
The NFL suspended Hunt for eight games without pay for violating its personal conduct policy, the league announced Friday morning.
The punishment follows an investigation into three off-field incidents, including one at his residence at The 9 in downtown Cleveland in which he was caught on video shoving and kicking a woman. The NFL cited altercations at The 9 and at Put-In-Bay for the punishment and reviewed law enforcement records, video and electronic communications, interviews with numerous witnesses and multiple interviews with Hunt.
“I want to again apologize for my actions last year,” Hunt said in a news release from the team. “I know that my behavior hurt a lot of people, and I again apologize to them. I respect the league’s decision on discipline, and I appreciate the time I spent with Commissioner Goodell last week.
“I’m grateful for my time with the Browns over the last month and thankful to all the people in the organization that have welcomed me. I also appreciate all of the support I received from my union through this process. My commitment to earning the trust of the league, my teammates, the organization and this community through my actions will continue, and I understand there is a lot of hard work ahead of me before I’m able to fully return to playing the game I love.”
Hunt won’t appeal the suspension that will begin Aug. 31 with the final roster cuts. He’ll lose $62,941 per week, so it will cost him $503,528.
He’ll be permitted to work with the team throughout the offseason and play in the preseason.
The Browns signed Hunt to a one-year deal Feb. 11 knowing a lengthy suspension was likely. General manager John Dorsey explained the decision at the time.
“He is extremely remorseful for that moving forward, and I’ve always believed that it is important if a person wants to better themselves moving forward and be a better person, I’m willing to give them a chance,” Dorsey said.
Dorsey drafted Hunt in the third round in 2017 as GM of the Chiefs. Hunt led the league in rushing as a rookie with 1,327 yards, averaging 4.9 yards a carry and scoring eight rushing touchdowns. He also caught 53 passes for 455 yards and three touchdowns.
Hunt was cut by the Chiefs and placed on the commissioner exempt list on Nov. 30 after the video of the altercation at The 9 was made public. He admitted to lying to the Chiefs about what happened.
In 11 games in 2018, he rushed for 824 yards, a 4.6 average and seven touchdowns. He caught 26 passes for 378 yards and seven touchdowns.
Hunt grew up in Elyria before moving to the East Side and attending Willoughby South High School.
He’s expected to report to the start of the offseason program April 1 and has already spent a lot of time inside Browns headquarters.
“I know that he has really done a nice job of being committed and of doing that work so that he can be the best version of himself,” Dorsey said Thursday. “I know he has been diligently working on that.”
The Browns must decide what to do with third-down running back Duke Johnson, the team’s player of the year in 2017 when he totaled 1,041 yards from scrimmage. His opportunities were greatly reduced last season, he managed only 630 yards and Hunt is expected to step into his role when eligible.
The Browns are expected to trade Johnson if the offer is right.
“PFS Agency stands behind our client, Kareem Hunt, in his decision to accept the suspension handed down by the NFL today,” agent Dan Saffron said in a statement. “We want to thank the Browns for the unwavering support they have shown Kareem. We also want to acknowledge the NFLPA, who has provided a great deal of guidance for Kareem throughout the process.”