Vulnerable and distraught during a January traffic stop in which a small amount of marijuana was found in his car, Browns running back Kareem Hunt told the officer the incident could ruin his NFL career. He went on to say that it “hurts my soul” he wouldn’t be playing in the Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs, his former team.
Hunt has had months to calm down and reflect, and as he prepares for his second season with the Browns, he’s grateful the organization gave him another chance and is motivated to get to the Super Bowl with his hometown team.
“I’m blessed that the Browns gave me another opportunity,” Hunt said Monday on a Zoom conference call with reporters. “So, yes, I’m lucky to have another opportunity to play football. You never know. Honestly, I’m just blessed to play the game, so I’ll always feel lucky to play football. I know any second it can be gone.”
The Browns signed him in February 2019 after he had been cut by the Chiefs for lying about kicking and shoving a woman in a Cleveland hotel. He was suspended by the NFL for the first eight games last season for his role in a pair of violent incidents, including the one in the hotel hallway.
The Browns kept Hunt after the 45-minute traffic stop Jan. 21 in Rocky River, signing him to a restricted free agent tender. Hunt was given a ticket but he wasn’t cited for the marijuana. He admitted to the officer he would’ve failed a drug test.
Owner Jimmy Haslam said Hunt’s actions were “not acceptable. He’s got to do better.”
“I would say that was out of character,” Hunt said. “I learned from it, I’ve been working to become a better person each and every day. Definitely not looking for anything like that to happen again. I’ve been working. Now I’m just focused on football, working out and getting ready for this season.
“I’ve got to do better. Shouldn’t have done it. Ready to move on from that and focus on football.”
Hunt, 24, was born in Elyria before moving to the East Side and attending Willoughby South High School. He went to the University of Toledo and was a third-round pick of the Chiefs in 2017. He won the league rushing title as a rookie but was cut during his second season.
“I should be playing for a freaking Super Bowl. It hurts my soul,” Hunt said to the officer before the Chiefs beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl. “I’ve been fighting a lot of sh– lately. It still hurts me to this day.”
Hunt said Monday he’s moved on from those feelings of regret.
“I love those guys. I’ve got brothers on that team. I came in with a lot of those players. Love the coaches there,” he said. “All good people and they deserved it, and I am happy for them.”
He takes comfort in the talent on the Browns and the confidence they can do big things.
“We can do something special here,” he said. “I want to get that Super Bowl feeling and I believe we can do it here in my hometown. That would be bigger than anything, for me. That would bring a championship to Cleveland. I have been a fan my whole life. I have been with Cleveland my whole life.”
Hunt is schedule to become a free agent after the season and was asked if he’d like to sign a long-term deal to stay.
“No question. I would definitely like to be a part of something like this,” he said. “Everybody is here I care about. I know everybody in the whole town. I would not mind playing for the Browns for a long time.”
Hunt said he’s been staying “low-key” since the January incident and doing stuff in the community to help people in these difficult times.
“Everybody’s got to try to be the best person they can be right now,” he said, referring to the unrest after George Floyd was killed when a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry were forced to deal with the Hunt situation soon after being hired. Their message to Hunt was clear.
“It’s not acceptable and I’ve got to be smarter,” Hunt said. “I can’t be doing stuff like that. We had a good talk.
“They see me on the field as a guy who can make some plays this year and help the team win. That’s what I’ve been looking forward to. We’ve been talking, I keep in touch with Coach all the time about what he wants to see.”