BEREA — Kareem Hunt is learning how thin a line he walks.
The 2017 NFL rushing leader said he appreciated the Browns’ support after cellphone video caught him being questioned by Cleveland police officers outside a downtown bar on June 29. TMZ.com published the video and reported Hunt was arguing with a friend outside the Barley House.
But the running back who already must serve an eight-game suspension to start the season knows that the minor incident for which he was not charged must serve as a wakeup call as he attempts to resume his NFL career.
“I’m going to learn from everything and not make the same mistake again,” Hunt said after practice Monday.
“I appreciate that the Browns still have my back. It was just something that was a misunderstanding. I know I can’t have that, so I look to move forward and continue bettering myself and working and getting ready for this season.”
Hunt, who turns 24 Tuesday, was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 30 after TMZ obtained video of him shoving and kicking a woman in a downtown Cleveland hotel in February 2018. Signed by the Browns on Feb. 11, he was suspended in March for two physical altercations in a span of 17 months; he was also accused of punching a man in Put-in-Bay in June 2018.
Now a marked man, Hunt said Browns general manager John Dorsey and coach Freddie Kitchens told him “just be smart.”
Asked if he could afford to go out, Hunt, a Willoughby native, said: “I’m just going to lay low and continue working to be a better person and get ready for this season. I’ve just been doing whatever it takes to stay out of the way and enjoy myself with my family and keep my mind on football.”
Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam took a tough stance on Hunt last week, with Dee Haslam saying: “We know Kareem has work to do, and he is in counseling working really hard. It truly is up to him.”
Jimmy Haslam added, “Kareem understands what he has to do to continue to be a part of the Cleveland Browns.”
In regard to those comments, Hunt said: “I’m definitely always going to have work to do. Since I stepped in the building, I had work to do, so I’m just going to 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 what TMZ called a “small argument” may have been the reinforcement Hunt needed.
“You know what? 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 Monday. “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.”
Hunt said he was been seeing his counselor and said that has been going well.
He hasn’t heard from the league whether he’ll be able to remain with the Browns during his suspension, but said he had a plan if he’s not allowed into the facility.
“Chill out, get good workouts and lay low,” he said.
In training camp, Hunt missed the first eight practices with a groin injury suffered while working out in the offseason. He participated in individual drills during Saturday’s Orange and Brown Scrimmage and in Monday’s practice. He’s not sure if he’ll get into Thursday’s preseason opener against the Washington Redskins at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Hunt hasn’t played in a game since Nov. 19 and said he’s anxious for preseason action.
“I definitely want to get back out there and see what I’ve got still,” he said, laughing.
But he said he’s not concerned that he won’t be the same runner who totaled 2,151 rushing yards in his first 27 games with the Chiefs, including 1,327 yards to lead the league as a rookie.
“Football has been my whole life. I kinda think it’s kinda natural,” he said. “I’m not really too worried about where I’ll be at on the field. I’m sure I didn’t lose too much.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.