BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns’ training camp hasn’t lacked for drama because of quarterback Deshaun Watson’s NFL disciplinary case over sexual misconduct allegations.
Now, there’s a new storyline involving running back Kareem Hunt — even if the head coach insists the 27-year-old’s fight for an extension is “normal.”
The NFL’s rushing leader in 2017 demanded a trade after the team denied his request for a long-term contract extension, holding himself out of team drills Friday and Saturday in protest but rejoining on Sunday.
“We are working, there is no distraction,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said on the practice field. “I understand there are things that happen that certainly get attention, and that’s OK. … This is normal. This is NFL football, as far as I know.”
Stefanski declined to answer questions specifically about Hunt, just as he has about the status of Watson, the starting quarterback who is waiting to see how long he will be suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
Hunt is in the final season of a two-year, $12 million extension signed in 2020. If the Cleveland-area native is on the active roster for all 17 games, he will earn $6.25 million this season.
Earlier on Sunday, it was reported that the Browns had denied Hunt’s trade request according to Browns beat writer Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
CBS Sports insider Josina Anderson reported on Saturday that Hunt was holding out on team drills, only partaking in individual drills. Anderson added that Hunt wanted to “get paid or traded.”
Stefanski said he wouldn’t address whether Hunt was penalized for sitting out part of camp.
“I am not going to get into anything that has to do with our players, conversations that I have with our players, and those types of things,” he added. “If our players are healthy, they practice.”
Hunt has been productive during his three seasons for Cleveland, but he missed nine games last season with calf and ankle injuries.
He gained a league-best 1,327 yards rushing as a rookie for the Chiefs in 2017. But like Watson, Hunt arrived in Cleveland with his own baggage. He was suspended by the NFL for the first eight games in 2019 for off-field behaviour, including shoving and kicking a woman while with the Kansas City.
In 2020, Hunt rushed for 841 yards in 2020 and added 304 yards receiving. He led the team with 11 touchdowns and was a perfect complementary piece for Pro Bowl selection Nick Chubb.
The Browns are now as deep as any team at the position, reducing the leverage that Hunt perceives he has.
Pro Bowl selection Nick Chubb rushed for 1,259 yards last season and D’Ernest Johnson is an emerging talent who gained 534 as a third-stringer. Cleveland also drafted Cincinnati’s Jerome Ford in the fifth round.
“All of our guys have to earn a role and carve it out,” Stefanski said.