Chiefs set for Oak­land game while Hunt won­ders what’s next

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - Nfl - BY DAVE SKRETTA

Ka­reem Hunt went from the Kansas City Chiefs’ prac­tice field to look­ing for a job in about six hours, a spec­tac­u­lar fall for the NFL’s reign­ing rush­ing cham­pion.

The Pro Bowl run­ning back was prepar­ing for Sun­day’s game at Oak­land when, un­be­knownst to him, a months-old video sur­faced on­line. The footage from a Cleve­land ho­tel se­cu­rity cam­era showed Hunt shov­ing and kick­ing a woman, with po­lice ul­ti­mately re­spond­ing. No charges were filed.

The Chiefs im­me­di­ately sent Hunt home as the video from TMZ ripped across so­cial me­dia. An or­ga­ni­za­tion that prides it­self on pro­vid­ing sec­ond chances said in a state­ment late Fri­day it had re­leased the 23-year-old star.

The ques­tion now for the Chiefs and Hunt is sim­ple: What’s next?

The Chiefs (9-2) are bar­rel­ing to­ward the No. 1 seed in the AFC play­offs, and the loss of their lead­ing rusher is sub­stan­tial. Hunt ran for more than 800 yards and had 14 to­tal touch­downs, help­ing Kansas City form one of the league’s most dy­namic of­fenses.

His abil­ity to churn out yards on the ground helped the Chiefs put away sev­eral games. His abil­ity to catch passes out of the back­field had been just as use­ful.

Yet the falloff to Spencer Ware isn’t that sig­nif­i­cant. The Chiefs’ backup was the un­ques­tioned starter head­ing into last season, even af­ter the team made Hunt their third-round pick. It wasn’t un­til Ware – whose skill set closely mir­rors that of Hunt – went down with a season-end­ing knee in­jury in the pre­sea­son that the rookie took over.

“There was a ques­tion whether he would be able to come back from that in­jury. It was a pretty tough in­jury to come back from,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said re­cently. “The last cou­ple weeks he has played good foot­ball. You can see where he is more con­fi­dent each week here.”

The Chiefs are also con­fi­dent in back­ups Damien Wil­liams and Dar­rel Wil­liams. And with a soft sched­ule down the stretch, in­clud­ing two games against the Raiders, there is plenty of time for their of­fense to ad­just to life with­out Hunt.

So that is what’s next for the Chiefs. What hap­pens to Hunt?

The Chiefs and the NFL knew what hap­pened in Fe­bru­ary in Cleve­land, and the or­ga­ni­za­tion spoke to Hunt on sev­eral oc­ca­sions be­fore han­dling dis­ci­pline in­ter­nally. But nei­ther the team nor the league had seen the video be­fore it be­came pub­lic Fri­day.

The NFL made mul­ti­ple at­tempts to ob­tain it, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the case told The As­so­ci­ated Press, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The ho­tel in­formed the league that cor­po­rate pol­icy al­lowed the video to be given only to law en­force­ment.

The NFL then con­tacted Cleve­land po­lice, the per­son said. Po­lice de­clined to pro­vide the video. Po­lice and ho­tel of­fi­cials have not com­mented.

In its grainy and graphic footage, the video changed ev­ery­thing, prov­ing what Hunt told the Chiefs was not the case. The team said he “was not truth­ful in those dis­cus­sions.”

The mat­ter brought as­sured­ness of ev­ery sin­gle play I know ex­actly what I’m sup­posed to do.” Mc­Caf­frey on the run: im­me­di­ate com­par­isons to the video of Ravens run­ning back Ray Rice punch­ing a woman in an el­e­va­tor, which ul­ti­mately led to a long le­gal saga that ended with him never play­ing in the NFL again.

The big dif­fer­ence be­tween Rice and Hunt, though, is this: Rice was on the down­ward side of his ca­reer while Hunt was on the as­cen­sion.

Hunt re­mains on the com­mis­sioner’s ex­empt list, which means he can’t play or at­tend games while the NFL in­ves­ti­gates. But as was the case when the Red­skins signed line­backer Reuben Fos­ter, who was cut by the 49ers last week af­ter he was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, the list does not pre­vent an­other team from tak­ing a chance on a po­ten­tial su­per­star.

The Red­skins faced harsh pub­lic crit­i­cism, and there will no doubt be a sim­i­lar up­roar if a team signs Hunt. But bal­anc­ing that against the ben­e­fits of a young star in his prime is a del­i­cate de­ci­sion for team ex­ec­u­tives.

Hunt is­sued a brief apol­ogy late Fri­day, a small first step to­ward get­ting an­other chance. But as the Chiefs get ready to play Oak­land, Hunt will be watch­ing on tele­vi­sion.

There are many more steps be­fore Hunt takes the field.

If it ever hap­pens again.

THE LAST COU­PLE WEEKS HE HAS PLAYED GOOD FOOT­BALL. YOU CAN SEE WHERE HE IS MORE CON­FI­DENT EACH WEEK HERE.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid, on Spencer Ware

KELVIN KUO AP

Run­ning back Ka­reem Hunt walks along the side­line dur­ing pregame warmups for the Chiefs’ game against the Rams on Nov. 19 in Los An­ge­les. Hunt was cut Fri­day af­ter a video sur­faced of him shov­ing and kick­ing a woman.

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