DENVER — Running back Kareem Hunt is eligible to return this week following an eight-game suspension, and coach Freddie Kitchens plans to put him right to work Sunday against the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“I’m very much looking forward to Kareem being with us, being able to play,” Kitchens said Monday in Berea. “He will definitely have a role.”
That will likely be taking over for Dontrell Hilliard as the third-down back. Hilliard’s playing time has been inconsistent this season, but he played 30 snaps Sunday in the 24-19 loss to the Broncos compared to 45 for starter Nick Chubb. If the coaches continue to sit Chubb for the majority of passing situations, Hunt will get a good amount of work.
The Browns could’ve used him against the Broncos. Hilliard rushed five times for 8 yards and caught two passes for 6 yards. He rushed for no gain on a third-and-3 in the second quarter — quarterback Baker Mayfield appeared to make the wrong read on a run-pass option — and 2 yards on third-and-3 in the third quarter before Mayfield’s unsuccessful sneak.
Hunt is a dual threat who led the league in rushing as a rookie in 2017. He hasn’t played in a regular-season game since Nov. 19 but spent the offseason with the Browns and returned to practice Oct. 21.
Receiver Rashard Higgins played 15 of 75 offensive snaps (20 percent), was targeted once and didn’t catch a pass. Antonio Callaway remained the primary No. 3 wideout, playing 36 snaps (48 percent) and catching four passes in five targets for 56 yards.
Last week Kitchens told reporters to ask Higgins about the Seahawks game Oct. 13 when he was active but didn’t play. Higgins wouldn’t answer questions about it, and Kitchens declined to elaborate Monday.
“It is not impacting Rashard’s playing time,” he said. “I’m not talking about three weeks ago.”
Receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry were told by officials they wouldn’t be allowed to play in the second half unless they changed their cleats. Kitchens didn’t see the “controversy” as an indication of a bigger problem.
“It was brought to my attention that they need to take the cleats off,” he said. “I asked them to take the cleats off and they took their cleats off. There is no dysfunction there.
“I feel like any time if it’s got potential to hurt the team then that is not a good thing, but they did not hurt the team. They took their cleats off when they were told to take their cleats off.”
BACK IN THE SADDLE
Left tackle Greg Robinson returned to his starting role after being benched for a game. He left a few plays early with an ankle injury.
“Greg responded well to that,” Kitchens said of the benching. “He played pretty good yesterday. He gave up a couple pressures. He was pretty solid in the run game.”
Kitchens didn’t provide an update on Robinson, defensive end Olivier Vernon (knee) and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (knee).
** Tight end David Njoku had the cast removed from his broken wrist. He was hurt Week 2 and must miss two more games before he’s eligible to come off injured reserve.
** General manager John Dorsey was announced as the team’s nominee for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. The annual award honors someone in the league who demonstrates a commitment to honoring and supporting the military community.
** Undrafted rookie defensive end Porter Gustin (6-foot-5, 257 pounds) was signed to the practice squad. He went to USC, was signed by the Saints and cut after the preseason. He had 14 sacks in 31 games at USC.