BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Kareem Hunt has learned there’s only one way to avoid trouble.
“Lay low,” he said.
The Browns’ suspended running back said Monday that a recent off-field incident, which led to police questioning and raised team concerns, served as a reminder of his public profile and provided another wake-up call in his journey to become a better person.
“I’m going to learn from everything and not make the same mistake again,” he said. “Definitely learning from it.”
Hunt, who will serve an eight-game NFL suspension for past violent altercations — in one case, shoving and kicking a woman — before he plays in a meaningful game for his hometown team, spoke to reporters for the first time in training camp and first time since his involvement in an argument with a friend outside a Cleveland bar in July.
Hunt wasn’t arrested or charged, but the incident prompted a strong message from Browns coach Freddie Kitchens and general manager John Dorsey.
“It was a misunderstanding and I appreciate that the Browns still had my back and it was just something that was a misunderstanding and I know I can’t have those,” Hunt said, “so I look to move forward and continue bettering myself and working and getting ready for the season.”
Last week, Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, who signed Hunt in March on Dorsey’s recommendation, remained supportive of Hunt while making it clear he still had to prove himself to his teammates and community.
“We know that Kareem has work to do, and he is in counseling working really hard,” Dee Haslam said. “It truly is up to him. We have high expectations for our players.”
Other than the one instance, it appears Hunt has kept his word and behaved. He’s continued to receive counseling and feels good about the progress he’s made.
He’s nowhere near done.
“I’m definitely always going to have work to do,” he said. “Since I stepped in the building, I’ve had work to do, so I’m just gonna keep staying in my lane and doing whatever it takes to take my game to the next level and stay out of trouble.”
Kitchens said Hunt may have grown too comfortable, and allowed himself to fall into bad habits.
“It is really one of those things where sometimes if you start feeling good about yourself about what you are doing as a person, then maybe I can do a few other things, whatever those things are,” Kitchens said. “I think it kind of just brought him back to reality that you are in the NFL, man. You are Kareem Hunt. You got to be careful in everything that you do because these things right here (cameras) are everywhere.
“I am pleased with Kareem. Do not misinterpret that. I am pleased with Kareem on the progress he is making off the field, more so than anything.”
The former Kansas Chiefs star has been sidelined for most of training camp with a groin injury he sustained during offseason workouts. He returned for the team’s stadium scrimmage on Saturday, but was limited to only individual drills during Monday’s workout. It’s still not known if he’ll play in Thursday’s exhibition opener against the Washington Redskins.
Hunt is waiting to find out from the league if he’s going to be able to stay with the team once the regular season starts. He said the interactions with teammates have helped him adjust, keep his mind on football and heal.
If he can’t be with the Browns, Hunt already knows what he’ll do.
“I got a plan,” he said. “You know, chill out, get good workouts and lay low.”
NOTES: Superstar WR Odell Beckham Jr. was kept indoors during practice with an unspecified illness. … Cleveland’s entire defensive front — Myles Garrett, Sheldon Richardson, Olivier Vernon and Larry Ogunjobi — was out with what Kitchens termed “bumps and bruises.” … Kitchens called QB Baker Mayfield’s beer-chugging antics at the Indians’ game “impressive” and joked that he wouldn’t try biting into a beer can. “Can I? No, I do not drink beer anymore,” he said. “That is a lie, I told you all I would not lie – that is a lie.” … WR Derrick Willies made a sensational one-handed TD catch on a 50-yard pass from Mayfield. … Rookie CB Greedy Williams intercepted Mayfield near the goal line. … RB Nick Chubb on the prospect of him and Hunt in the same backfield. “It’s going to be scary.”
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