BEREA, Ohio (AP) — 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. Hunt was not made available to speak with the media.
“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.”
Hunt did his best to prove Stefanski’s point, taking part in all offensive sets on the sunny afternoon before voluntarily running post-practice sprints in the sweltering 90-degree heat. He was joined by backup quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Josh Rosen.
Stefanski declined to answer questions specifically about Hunt, just as he has about the status of Watson, the controversial 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.
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 with the Browns, but he missed nine games last year 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 because of off-field behavior, including shoving and kicking a woman while with 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 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.
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.
Notes: Rookie K Cade York made a 45-yard field goal to wind up the two-hour practice, earning the players an early exit from the training facility before they have Monday off. … WR David Bell (foot) revealed that a stress fracture was the reason he was unavailable at the start of camp. … CB Denzel Ward (foot), WR Michael Woods II (hamstring), LB Silas Kelly (hamstring), DT Sheldon Day (back) and CB Shaun Jolly (groin) did not practice. … Browns assistant Callie Brownson coached the U.S. National Team to a 42-14 win over Great Britain in the gold medal game at the IFAF Women’s Tackle World Championship in Finland.