BEREA — The decisions-makers are united in wanting running back Kareem Hunt to return for next season, but owner Jimmy Haslam made it clear that’s contingent on Hunt changing his behavior.
“If Kareem can follow the expectations we’ve laid out for him,” Haslam said Wednesday.
Hunt, 24, was stopped for speeding Jan. 21 in Rocky River, the police officer found small amounts of marijuana — he was cited for speeding but not the marijuana — and Hunt admitted to the officer he would have failed a drug test, as revealed by dash cam footage.
Hunt subsequently met with new general manager/executive vice president of football operations Andrew Berry and new coach Kevin Stefanski.
“It’s not good. Kareem knows he’s got to do better,” Haslam said after Berry was introduced at a news conference. “Kevin and Andrew have talked to him about it. What he did is not acceptable. He’s got to do better.”
Hunt was suspended for the first eight games of 2019 by the NFL for two off-field altercations, including one in which he kicked and shoved a woman. Berry said they laid out the expectations to Hunt, who’s scheduled to be a restricted free agent in March.
“Look, we want guys who are going to be smart, tough and accountable, both on and off the field,” he said. “Kareem understands that. And we’re looking forward to him meshing with our culture moving forward.”
Stefanski and Berry also met with receiver Odell Beckham Jr. An arrest warrant was issued then rescinded after Beckham slapped the butt of a security officer in the locker room following LSU’s national championship win over Clemson in January.
“I think I certainly want Kareem and Odell on the team this year,” Stefanski said. “Yes, they’re players I believe in. Again, two different situations, but to lump them together, I would put them with all of our players. There’s a standard that we’ll set and we’re going to ask them to adhere to those standards.”
Stefanski thinks Hunt got the message.
“Every situation is different but certainly with any player we’re going to have standards by how we behave when we’re not in this building, when we are in this building,” he said. “So I think Kareem understands that, and we’re going to move forward with him understanding where I stand on all those matters.”
Haslam left no doubt he wants to keep Beckham, who’s under contract through 2023. Beckham had a drama-filled first season in Cleveland and finished with 74 catches, 1,035 yards and four touchdowns despite playing all season with a core muscle injury that required surgery last month.
“Absolutely. Absolutely,” Haslam said of wanting Beckham to return. “Odell is extremely talented. He was hampered by the groin injury.
“Listen, he could have done some things better, we could have done some things better. I think Kevin is very excited to have Odell on the team. The surgery went well, he’s rehabbing and we look forward to having him and being a big, big producer for the team this year.”
Berry, who has final say of the roster, said he and Stefanski had “really great” conversations with Beckham.
“He’s one of the most talented receivers in the league,” Berry said. “And we’re certainly happy to have him here. But, again, everybody’s going to have to fit into our culture in terms of being smart, tough and accountable, and both those guys know that.”