KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Andy Reid made it clear early on in his postgame press conference after the Chiefs' 40-33 win over the Oakland Raiders that he didn't want to discuss the only thing anyone wanted to ask him.
“I know you’re probably going to have some questions about Kareem (Hunt), so I’m going to help you forget about those questions right quick,” Reid said in his first meeting with reporters since the club cut ties with their Pro Bowl running back on Friday after the release of a security video showing Hunt's physical altercation with a 19-year-old woman in a Cleveland hotel in February.
“Listen, we made the decision that we made,” Reid went on to say. “We put out a statement to explain that situation. And as we’ve done in the past when things come up, that’s where we go. We handle it within and we handle it with the person that has been affected, so we’ve done all of those things and I’ll leave it with you with that.”
The release of the video and it's nature surprised many of Hunt's former teammates, including wide receiver Chris Conley.
“It was a little bit of shock,” Conley said. “With the things going on, it came at us pretty fast here but life moves fast and it doesn’t wait for anybody. I’ve reached out to him and I’m hoping he can the help that he needs and that he can grow as a man and really the focus is on Kareem as a person, not the football player right now.”
Like Conley, many Chiefs players expressed concern for Hunt as a person off the football football who needs to take responsibility for his actions. Tight end Travis Kelce sent Hunt a text over the weekend.
“I let him know that we are thinking of him and that he’s always going to be out brother, and to let a few things settle down,” Kelce said. “He needs to understand some things, how people are viewing him right now. I’ll eventually get to him and get in his ear. He knows we love him.”
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes also said he spoke with Hunt after the team's decision. He declined to share the details of the conversation, but acknowledged he saw the video.
“We had a close relationship,” Mahomes said. “I saw the stuff that happened and we don’t do those things. At the same time, I just focused on our organization, the Chiefs. I know we have to move forward and keep going out there to win football games if we want to have success this season.”
A media report indicated Mahomes led a players-only meeting before the game to address the Hunt situation, but several players said no meeting occurred.
“No, we did not,” wide receiver Tyreek Hill said when asked about the meeting.
Running back Spencer Ware also denied the team meeting.
“I don’t know who told you that,” Ware said. “What we got going on in the locker room is what we got. Regardless the team is close, and we won’t let anything that happens on the outside dictate what we have inside.”
Even without Hunt, the Chiefs have put themselves into position to make a playoff run. Mahomes doesn't believe the distractions surrounding Hunt will take this team's eyes off the prize.
“The mindset of this team is whenever you get your opportunity, you make the most of it,” Mahomes said. “I feel like every single game someone else steps up. We kept our mind on that and playing football, the game we have loved since we were little kids to keep this season going.”
If the Chiefs are going to weather the damage left behind in the wake of Hunt's departure, the burden rests on Reid and the culture he's strived to build inside the club's locker room.
“I think Coach Reid does a tremendous job helping us with that stuff,” Hill said. “He just told us to put our head down and grind. That’s what I’ve been doing. That’s what this whole team has been doing. We are very fortunate to have great leaders on this team.”
Reid said he plans to lean on his team's leaders to keep the squad focused on their season goals
“You’ve got to bank on the strength of your locker room and those veteran players and really some of the young players, too,” Reid said. “Some from his class, which is a big thing for these players being in the same draft class, so some of the guys from his class, I thought really stepped up and kept things positive within the game and their feelings for Kareem in a different area, they separated those two things.”
Reid tried with moderate success to move the conversation away from Hunt and back to the game. But the questions won't go away soon.
“I don’t want to get away or anything to distract from how tough a place this is to play,” Reid said. “The guys, my locker room leadership overcoming the situation that we had there, which can be a distraction, handled it the right way and stepped up today in a place that we haven’t always come out with this kind of result, so I’m proud of the guys in the locker room and the coaches for doing that.”
It's said that winning cures all ills, and that's what it will take to turn the conversation from Hunt back to football.