CLEVELAND, Ohio — Browns running back Kareem Hunt proclaimed on Instagram live after Sunday’s 48-37 victory over the Steelers that “next week’s personal” against the Chiefs, and Baker Mayfield acknowledged that Hunt, who rushed for two TDs, ran with a vengeance in Pittsburgh.
“Kareem ran p—– off,’’ Mayfield said after the game. “He ran like he wanted to get to Kansas City.”
Hunt, of course, was cut by the Chiefs on Nov. 30, 2018, the day after video surfaced of him having an altercation with a woman in his downtown Cleveland apartment building from the previous February. The Chiefs were aware that an incident had occurred, but felt he wasn’t truthful with them and cut him with five games left in the season.
Hunt, who led the NFL with 1,327 yards as a rookie out of Toledo in 2017, came home to Cleveland and had no idea if he’d ever play football again. Former Browns GM John Dorsey gave him a second chance in 2019, which began with an eight-game suspension.
When the Chiefs made it to the Super Bowl last season, Hunt took it very hard, telling a police officer during a speeding stop that “it hurts my soul” that he wasn’t playing in the game a few days later. But Hunt got himself back on track, and has been a good citizen and a terrific player for the Browns since then, rushing for 841 yards and six TDs, and catching 38 passes for 304 yards and five TDs.
“That’s my dude, man,’’ Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said Monday on KCSP 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City. “I came in with Kareem, and obviously we’re not together anymore, but I still stay in touch. He’s a heck of a football player, and someone who was one of my best friends when we first got on the team together.’’
After the Browns beat the Steelers to advance to Sunday’ afternoon’s game in Kansas City, Mahomes texted Hunt to congratulate him. Hunt was a huge part of the victory, dragging defenders into the end zone and running angry.
“He has a lot of success on that field every opportunity he gets and he’s a great football player and someone that I know will keep getting better and better as his career goes on,’’ Mahomes said. “He’s a special football player. He finishes every single play, he catches and runs, he can do it all. I’m happy for him that he’s back home in Cleveland and he’s able to play really good football.’’
When the Chiefs cut Hunt, Mahomes and coach Andy Reid both talked to management about giving him another chance.
“I don’t want to talk about a lot of it, but I just talked to the guys because Kareem was one of our dudes, man,’’ Mahomes said. “He was not only a great football player, but he was one of our best friends on the team. We had to continue to battle forward at an unfortunate time, but at the same time, I still have a relationship with Kareem and he’s still one of my good friends.’’
Hunt rushed for 824 yards and 7 TDs in 11 games for the Chiefs in 2018, and had another almost 400 receiving yards and 7 TD catches. He was on pace for his second straight 1,000-yard season, and it was a blow to the Chiefs’ offense. They lost in the wild card round to Tennessee after winning the AFC West with a 10-6 record.
“We just had to continue to battle that year, but now we’ve moved on and he’s moved on and we’re in good spots now,’’ Mahomes said. “We’re going to continue to battle and it’s good to go up against a really good football team and a really good player this weekend.’’
Reid, in his press conference on Monday, also expressed his fondness for Hunt, who remains close with many other Chiefs, including fellow Cleveland native Travis Kelce.
“Listen, I like Kareem,’’ Reid said. “I’m glad things are going well for him. He knows a lot of the guys that were on that team last year and felt bad about not being a part of that. I get all of that. But most of all, I’m happy for him that things are going in the right direction for him. He’s on a good football team, they’re well-coached and they won their first playoff game. There’s something to be said about that.’’
Jack Conklin, Michael Dunn and Robert Jackson day-to-day
Conklin (hamstring), Dunn (calf) and Jackson (hamstring) are all day-to-day for the Chiefs with injuries suffered in the Steelers game.
Conklin left the game in the second quarter and was replaced by Kendall Lamm. Dunn subbed for Joel Bitonio, but left in the fourth quarter with the strained calf.
Dunn was replaced by first-year player Blake Hance, who met Mayfield for the first time before the game.
Stefanski, who’s expected to rejoin the team on Thursday after his COVID-19 quarantine, hasn’t yet met Hance.
“I’m looking forward to it,’’ he said.
Monday was also Hance’s birthday.
“Happy birthday, Blake,’’ Stefanski said.
Joel Bitonio, Denzel Ward and others expected back
Bitonio, Ward, KhaDarel Hodge and Kevin Johson are all expected back this week, but Stefanski will let the COVID-19 protocol play out.
He also provided no update on whether or not the other coaches will be back, but most or all will be eligible to return. They’re offensive line coach Bill Callahan, assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and secondary coach Jeff Howard.
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