BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns’ offense will be bolstered by the addition of a Pro Bowl rusher for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland when Kareem Hunt makes his return to the field 11 months after he last played in the NFL.
A third-year rusher out of the University of Toledo and Willoughby South High School, Hunt served a league-mandated eight-game suspension for assaulting a woman at The 9 hotel/apartment complex in February of 2018 and is expected to be activated for Sunday.
“Some of that’s dictated by the game, but I think Kareem’s ready to play,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said prior to Wednesday’s practice.
Hunt is eligible to play against the Bills, but his official return to practice came two weeks ago when the NFL permitted him to resume his on-field work, something he had not done since the end of training camp in late August.
“It’s helped us tremendously from the standpoint of feeling confident that he knows what to do and how to do it, and it’s helped him from the standpoint of physical conditioning,” Kitchens said. “It’s a lot different being in good shape and having endurance.
“Being in shape, you could go out and run a bunch of wind sprints. Having endurance is what you need for football, and that’s to play, play after play after play after play and never come off the field. He’s been building his endurance during the course of these last two weeks.”
After returning to the active roster, Hunt will have to split carries with one of the NFL’s most consistent running backs this season: Nick Chubb.
Chubb has rushed for 803 yards and six touchdowns on 154 carries. Currently, Chubb is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards, seventh in attempts, eighth in yards-per-carry average, fourth in overall scrimmage yards and tied for fifth in touchdowns.
“I think both of their skill sets offer plenty of opportunities to do a lot with those guys,” Kitchens said. “They’re both excellent runners, and they both catch the ball very well out of the backfield. They’re good protectors, and that makes them good all-around running backs.
“I think Nick’s about one thing and one thing only: winning. Nick gives us a great opportunity to win. I think we’re adding another chip to the puzzle to increase those chances, too. I don’t think either one of those two are very selfish at all, so it’s whatever gives us the best chance to win.”
In two years with the Kansas City Chiefs, Hunt rushed for 2,151 yards and 15 touchdowns with 106 first downs, 19 plays going for at least 20 yards and four 40-yard gains. Additionally, Hunt caught 79 passes out of the backfield for 833 yards and 10 touchdowns, including a single-season career high of seven in 2018.
In addition to his talents, Hunt has shown the Browns that he is determined to better himself off the field by making weekly visits to area high schools to share his cautionary tale of letting off-the-field incidents derail a lifetime of hard work.
“I think Kareem fits in our locker room very well from the standpoint of personally,” Kitchens said. “Professionally, everybody knows what he can do. Kareem’s been a good person since he’s been here, and I know it’s important for him to continue to make strides in that area. Football will take care of itself.”