KANSAS CITY, Mo. — General manager John Dorsey provided Kareem Hunt his start in the NFL by selecting him in the third round of the 2017 draft, and now Dorsey offers another opportunity to the former Chiefs running back, signing him Monday to a one-year free agent deal with the Cleveland Browns.
Dorsey made the move despite the fact the league placed Hunt on the commissioner exempt list list as the league investigates a series of off-the field incidents involving the 23-year-old. That includes a physical altercation with a woman at a Cleveland hotel in February 2018, video of which prompted the Chiefs to release Hunt in November.
“My relationship and interaction with Kareem since 2016 in college was an important part of this decision making process but we then did extensive due diligence with many individuals, including clinical professionals, to have a better understanding of the person he is today and whether it was prudent to sign him,” Dorsey said in a statement.
An apologetic Hunt again showed contrition for the incident in February 2017 in his statement released by the team.
“What I did was wrong and inexcusable,” Hunt said in the statement. “That is not the man I was raised to be, and I’ve learned a great deal from that experience and certainly should have been more truthful about it after the fact.”
Signing with the Browns is a homecoming for Hunt. He grew up in the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby. Hunt expressed gratitude to Dorsey as well the Browns organization and ownership for the opportunity, pledging to earning “their trust and respect.”
“I also understand the expectations that the Browns have clearly laid out and that I have to earn my way back to the NFL,” Hunt said. “I’m a work in progress as a person, but I’m committed to taking advantage of the support systems that I have in place to become the best and healthier version of myself.”
This isn't Dorsey's first experience taking a chance on a player with a troubling background. The Chiefs selected wide Tyreek Hill in the 2016 draft despite his previous guilty plea stemming from a felony domestic assault and battery charge in 2015. Dorsey said the team has expectations for Hunt as he resumes his football career.
“Here at the Browns, there is a detailed plan with expectations laid out that he understands and must follow, because any similar incident will not be tolerated,” Dorsey said in the statement. “We will support Kareem through this process and utilize our resources, however permitted, to help him become successful on and off the field as long as he continues to show the commitment necessary to represent this organization.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said “tremendous progress” had been made in the investigation into Hunt's conduct. That investigation also includes allegations of an incident at a Kansas City night club in January 2018 following the team's playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans as well as an altercation with a man at a resort in northern Ohio in June.
“Whether there’s discipline or not, we would finish the investigation and make a determination,” Goodell said at a press conference during Super Bowl week. “Hopefully that will happen soon, but we haven’t concluded the investigation and we’re working to do that.”
The Chiefs pledged upon Hunt's release to help him return to the league and get counseling for his alleged violent outbursts. During a conference call with reporters last week, general manager Brett Veach didn't close the door on Hunt returning to the team one day, but said it was “on the back burner” for now.
“Our focus and our hopes with Kareem is that he’s able to take the necessary steps to get his life in order and do the right things,” Veach said. “I think our focus on Kareem is making sure that he’s getting the help he needs and gets his life straight first. Everything else after that is not as important. Making sure he and his family are in a good place and they’re working toward getting better every day.”
Veach said his interactions with Hunt since his release in November remained positive.
“He’s in the process of taking the steps and doing the things he needs to do,” Veach said. “This is a long-term deal. It’s only been a few months, but all the interaction has been that he’s started the process, and again, he’s got a long way to go. But we hope that he takes those steps needed and whatever we can do from a personal standpoint, we want him to know we will always be there for him.”