Browns sign trou­bled RB Hunt dropped by Chiefs

Young, ta­lented run­ner given a sec­ond chance from his home­town team

Albuquerque Journal - - SPORTS - BY TOM WITHERS AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

CLEVE­LAND — The Cleve­land Browns’ sign­ing of Ka­reem Hunt once again shines a spot­light some­where other than the team’s on-field per­for­mance.

Hunt, who was re­leased 2½ months ago by Kansas City af­ter a video sur­faced show­ing the star run­ning back push­ing and kick­ing a woman, signed with Cleve­land on Mon­day.

Hunt was placed on the NFL’s com­mis­sioner’s ex­empt list hours be­fore the Chiefs re­leased him, a move that drew pub­lic sup­port af­ter he was seen in a phys­i­cal al­ter­ca­tion with the woman last Fe­bru­ary dur­ing an ar­gu­ment in the lobby of a down­town ho­tel where he stayed.

He was in his sec­ond sea­son with Kansas City and was one of the team’s best play­ers. He led the NFL in rush­ing as a rookie in 2017.

The Browns are now giv­ing the 23-year-old, who is from Cleve­land, a chance to restart his ca­reer, though he still could be sus­pended by the league un­der its per­sonal con­duct pol­icy for the in­ci­dent and two oth­ers that sur­faced af­ter he was re­leased by the Chiefs. Hunt has not been charged with a crime. An NFL in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing.

And the Browns, com­ing off a tu­mul­tuous 7-8-1 sea­son that fol­lowed an 0-16 record in 2017 — with a new coach af­ter Hue Jack­son was fired mid­sea­son in 2018 — are cre­at­ing head­lines by giv­ing a player a sec­ond chance even as the NFL has not yet de­cided Hunt’s sta­tus.

Browns gen­eral man­ager John Dorsey drafted Hunt while work­ing for Kansas City and said their re­la­tion­ship was an “im­por­tant part of this de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.”

“But we then did ex­ten­sive due dili­gence with many in­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing clin­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the per­son he is to­day and whether it was pru­dent to sign him,” said Dorsey, who was Kansas City’s GM from 2013-16. “There were two im­por­tant fac­tors: One is that Ka­reem took full re­spon­si­bil­ity for his egre­gious ac­tions and showed true re­morse and se­condly, just as im­por-

tantly, he is un­der­go­ing and is com­mit­ted to nec­es­sary pro­fes­sional treat­ment and a plan that has been clearly laid out.”

Dorsey went on to say the Browns “fully un­der­stand and re­spect the com­plex­ity of ques­tions and is­sues in sign­ing a player with Ka­reem’s his­tory and do not con­done his ac­tions. Given what we know about Ka­reem through our ex­ten­sive re­search, we be­lieve he de­serves a sec­ond chance but cer­tainly with the un­der­stand­ing that he has to go through crit­i­cal and es­sen­tial steps to be­come a per­form­ing mem­ber of this or­ga­ni­za­tion, aside from what the NFL de­ter­mines from their on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Dorsey added that the Browns have given Hunt “de­tailed plans with ex­pec­ta­tions laid out that he un­der­stands and must fol­low.”

He said any sim­i­lar in­ci­dent will not be tol­er­ated.

In a state­ment re­leased by the team, Hunt ex­pressed re­morse and thanked the Browns for giv­ing him an op­por­tu­nity.

“First off, I would like to once again apol­o­gize for my ac­tions last year,” Hunt said. “What I did was wrong and in­ex­cus­able. That is not the man I was raised to be, and I’ve learned a great deal from that ex­pe­ri­ence and cer­tainly should have been more truth­ful about it af­ter the fact. I’m ex­tremely grate­ful that John Dorsey, Dee and Jimmy Haslam and the Cleve­land Browns or­ga­ni­za­tion are grant­ing me the op­por­tu­nity to earn their trust and rep­re­sent their or­ga­ni­za­tion in the best way pos­si­ble on and off the field.

“I am com­mit­ted to fol­low­ing the nec­es­sary steps to learn and to be a bet­ter and health­ier per­son from this sit­u­a­tion. I also un­der­stand the ex­pec­ta­tions that the Browns have clearly laid out and that I have to earn my way back to the NFL. I’m a work in progress as a per­son, but I’m com­mit­ted to tak­ing ad­van­tage of the sup­port sys­tems that I have in place to be­come the best and health­ier ver­sion of my­self.”

Hunt’s in­ci­dent is one of the more high­pro­file as­sault cases to plague the league in re­cent years.

In 2014, Baltimore Ravens run­ning back Ray Rice was cap­tured on video punch­ing and knock­ing out his then­fi­ancee in an el­e­va­tor. He was re­leased by the team and never re­turned to the NFL.

The Browns likely will re­ceive back­lash for their de­ci­sion to sign Hunt.

Cleve­land re­cently hired Fred­die Kitchens as its coach. Kitchens served as the team’s in­terim of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for the fi­nal eight games, and his strong con­nec­tion with rookie quar­ter­back Baker May­field was one of the main rea­sons he got the job.

Hunt, of course, could wind up with a sus­pen­sion for a por­tion of the 2019 sea­son. A player who is placed on the ex­empt list may not prac­tice or at­tend games, but with the team’s per­mis­sion he may be present at its fa­cil­ity on “a rea­son­able ba­sis for meet­ings, in­di­vid­ual work­outs, ther­apy and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, and other per­mit­ted non-foot­ball ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Hunt could have a ma­jor role with the Browns, who have back­field depth.

Nick Chubb ran for 996 yards as a rookie last sea­son and the team has Duke John­son, a ver­sa­tile back who also is one of the team’s best re­ceivers. John­son signed a three-year, $15.6 mil­lion con­tract in June.

REID: Eric Reid has signed a three-year con­tract worth more than $22 mil­lion with the Carolina Pan­thers, a deal the safety be­lieves is ad­di­tional proof that NFL own­ers con­spired to keep him out of the league last sea­son.

Reid said Mon­day he be­lieves he got “fair mar­ket value” af­ter mak­ing just $1.69 mil­lion last sea­son from the Pan­thers.

Reid still has a col­lu­sion case pend­ing against NFL own­ers, al­leg­ing that he wasn’t signed last off­sea­son as a di­rect re­sult of his de­ci­sion to kneel for the na­tional an­them along­side for­mer team­mate Colin Kaeper­nick in protest of so­cial and racial in­jus­tice. Kaeper­nick is still out of the league and Reid be­lieves that won’t change any­time soon.

MUR­RAY: Kyler Mur­ray, a two-sport star at Ok­la­homa, an­nounced Tues­day via Twit­ter that he will fo­cus on the NFL draft, sched­uled for April 25-27. The Heis­man Tro­phy-win­ning quar­ter­back didn’t men­tion the A’s in his post.

NFL draft ex­perts project Mur­ray to be taken in the first round af­ter his his­toric 2018 foot­ball sea­son with the Soon­ers.

The A’s will place Mur­ray on the re­stricted list and still hold his base­ball rights. But for now, Oak­land has wasted the No. 9 over­all pick from last year’s base­ball draft.

While the A’s get no com­pen­sa­tion in the form of a draft pick, Mur­ray will have to re­turn the bulk of his $4.66 mil­lion sign­ing bonus. The quar­ter­back will re­turn $1.29 mil­lion of the $1.5 mil­lion he al­ready has re­ceived. He also for­feits $3.1 mil­lion due March 1.

CASH­ION: For­mer NFL ref­eree Red Cash­ion, known for his vo­cif­er­ous calls of “FIRST DOWN,” has died. He was 87.

Cash­ion died Sun­day, ac­cord­ing to Cal­loway-Jones Life & Legacy fu­neral home.

Cash­ion re­tired from the NFL in 1997 af­ter of­fi­ci­at­ing for 25 years, 21 one of them as a ref­eree. He worked two Su­per Bowls.

NFL Ref­er­ees As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Scott Green called Cash­ion “the kind of man ev­ery­one wanted to em­u­late both on and off the field, and he gave so much of his time to all of us.”

Born Ma­son L. “Red” Cash­ion was born Nov. 10, 1931 in Col­lege Sta­tion, Texas. He ran track and played foot­ball, bas­ket­ball and base­ball at A&M Con­sol­i­dated High School, then at­tended Texas A&M on a base­ball schol­ar­ship, grad­u­at­ing in 1953. He was then com­mis­sioned as a sec­ond lieu­tenant in the U.S. Army.

He be­gan his of­fi­ci­at­ing ca­reer while fin­ish­ing his un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies at Texas A&M.

MAR­CIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ka­reem Hunt (27), who led the NFL in rush­ing as a rookie in 2017, was re­leased by the Kansas City Chiefs last sea­son af­ter a video sur­faced show­ing him push­ing and kick­ing a woman. The Cleve­land Browns signed Hunt on Mon­day.

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