CLEVELAND — As the 2020 season approaches, Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt has plenty to look forward to, including an expanded role in an offense that appears primed to utilize his versatility.
But for a brief moment in January, Hunt's future in football was again called into question.
Weeks removed from the end of his first season with his hometown team, the Willoughby native was pulled over in Rocky River during a traffic stop in which marijuana was found in his car. Coupled with his history of off-field behavior -- he was released by the Kansas City Chiefs and suspended for the first eight games of 2019 after a video surfaced showing him kicking and shoving a woman at a hotel in downtown Cleveland in 2018 -- there was reason to believe the Browns wouldn't re-sign Hunt, who was a free agent at the time.
Ultimately, however, Cleveland opted to stick by Hunt, extending the restricted free agent a second-round tender that he went on to sign. Speaking to reporters on a conference call on Monday, the 2017 Pro Bowl selection said he's moved on from January's traffic stop.
“I would say that was out of character. I learned from it," Hunt said. "I have been working to become a better person each and every day. Definitely not looking for anything like that to happen again. I have been working."
In addition to the marijuana that was found, Hunt's traffic stop made headlines due to the content of his conversation with the police officer. In discussing his football status, an emotional Hunt noted that his former team, the Chiefs, were preparing to play in the Super Bowl and that he should have been right there with them on football's biggest stage.
"Should be playing for a freaking Super Bowl, man," Hunt says in the video. "It hurts my soul. You don't even understand. I've been fighting a lot of [expletive] lately. It still hurts me to this day. I love Cleveland, I love the Browns, but you don't understand."
Asked about those particular comments on Monday, Hunt said that while he's happy for his former Kansas City teammates, he's since moved on and is fully focused on his future in Cleveland. That future includes a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski, who has a track record of showcasing dynamic running back such as Hunt.
But while Hunt -- who led the NFL in rushing in 2017 -- will certainly receive carries in a backfield that also includes Nick Chubb, his true value in 2020 could come as a pass-catcher. Asked about his dual ability, the Toledo product admitted he's been spending time in meetings with Cleveland's wide receivers and that he'll be ready for whatever role the Browns need him to play.
"Whenever my number is called -- I will be ready," he said. "I am looking forward to that. However they want to use me, just let me know. We will see how that goes.”