Nick Chubb didn’t need another reason to work hard. His practice habits and feats of strength in the weight room had made that abundantly clear.
But losing the NFL rushing title to Tennessee’s Derrick Henry in Week 17 last season added juice to Chubb’s offseason workouts and will stick with him through the season.
“Not really bothered me, just more motivation,” Chubb said Tuesday on a Zoom call with reporters. “Just trying to do it this year. Just working out as I always do, working hard, running hard. I believe everything happens for a reason and just keep working and striving and things will fall in place for you. That’s my mindset.”
Chubb had a 165-yard lead on Henry heading into Week 16 but finished with games of 45 and 41 yards to end the season with 1,494 yards, a 5.0 average and eight touchdowns.
Henry had 86 yards in Week 16 and 211 in the finale for 1,540.
The Browns are expected to run the ball a lot under new coach Kevin Stefanski, so Chubb figures to have ample opportunities to build on his first Pro Bowl season. But Kareem Hunt, who won the rushing title as a rookie with the Chiefs in 2017, also returns after new general manager Andrew Berry tendered him as a restricted free agent, so Chubb could see some of his carries given to Hunt.
“Whatever happens, I trust in the coaching staff, I trust in the team,” Chubb said. “I know they’ll put us in the best position to win. So however that looks, I’m fine with it.
“Should be able to find a way to get both of us on the field and both of us to do different things.”
Quarterback Baker Mayfield will be the guy getting them the ball as he looks to rebound from a disappointing second season.
“Baker looks good,” Chubb said. “He has come back and is saying all the right things and not saying some things. It is great.
“We are excited about Baker. I have believed in Baker from Day 1, and nothing has changed my opinion of Baker. I know he is excited to get out there and show the world who he is.”
Chubb and Hunt worked well together last season after Hunt began the year serving an eight-game suspension. Hunt showed versatility by taking turns at receiver and fullback but has the talent to be a top featured back.
“They are telling me I am going to run the football, too, so we will see,” he said in June. “Whatever to get on the field or get the ball in my hands, I am not mad. I want opportunities.
“As long as we win, that is the only thing that matters and that is the biggest thing.”
Chubb shares the philosophy and is beloved by coaches and teammates for his team-first, unselfish attitude. He welcomed Hunt last season and conditioned with him for a bit during this offseason, running a hill in Westlake.
Their dynamic will be different this year because Hunt will be available from the start. While that could cost Chubb touches, he sees a full season of Hunt as beneficial to the team.
“Now we get to go at it in every game we play, so I am excited about that,” Chubb said. “I look forward to it.
“Definitely because he can do so many different things. We have a lot of guys on this team and a lot of playmakers, and you can’t go wrong with who has the ball. Pick your poison.”
The foundation of Stefanski’s system is the wide zone run scheme. While the players haven’t been able to practice it full speed — training camp officially starts Friday — Chubb said he’s comfortable with it because he’s been running it since college.
He also appreciates the offensive line upgrade with right tackle Jack Conklin and rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills. Conklin came in free agency from Tennessee, where he helped lead the way for Henry, and said he wants to make it two rushing titles in a row with Chubb.
“I am excited,” Chubb said. “We added some great additions to the O-line, and I look forward to going out there and playing with them.”