The Journal Gazette
Sunday, January 17, 2021 1:00 am

Hunt ready to face former team

Running back says he harbors no animosity

TOM WITHERS | Associated Press

CLEVELAND – Kareem Hunt's about to face the team that drafted and developed him before deciding to push the running back away.

The Kansas City Chiefs won a Super Bowl without Hunt. He wants to stop them from getting another one.

Hunt, whose career briefly derailed in Kansas City before being renewed with a second chance in Cleveland, expects to have “high” emotions today when the Browns visit the Chiefs in the AFC divisional round.

He'll run with anger but said it won't be aimed at the Chiefs. They're just the next team in his path.

“I play with a lot of emotion, but this will probably be a little bit more,” he said.

This isn't about revenge for Hunt, who insists he doesn't carry a grudge toward the Chiefs for releasing him in 2018 after a disturbing video surfaced of him shoving a woman to the floor and kicking her during an argument.

He lied to them about his involvement, and the 25-year-old paid the price. Then the NFL suspended him eight games.

Hunt says this return is simply about football.

“It's a big game,” he said. “I came in with those guys over there. This is the first time playing against some of my best friends.”

Back in 2017, when Patrick Mahomes was still a rookie backup quarterback with a big arm and big potential, Hunt, a third-round draft pick from Toledo, seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the NFL in rushing.

He was a rising star on a rising team, but his off-field behavior snuffed any glow.

In the aftermath of the video, Hunt was released and appeared to be untouchable before former Kansas City general manager John Dorsey, who had moved on to Cleveland after his own messy separation from the Chiefs, signed him.

Back in his hometown, Hunt's now part of a renaissance with the Browns (12-5), who knocked off the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round.

It tore at Hunt last winter when the Chiefs won it all. He told a police officer after he was pulled over for speeding – his only misstep since joining the Browns – that it “hurts my soul' that he wasn't part of Kansas City's win.

It's not that he wasn't thrilled for Mahomes, All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce and other ex-teammates he considers “family,” Hunt just wanted to share the experience. It's what drives him now.

“My biggest goal coming into the NFL was to win a Super Bowl,” Hunt said. “The Super Bowl has been on my mind since I got drafted to Kansas City. They were able to get that goal, which they deserve. That is a good program over there, a good football team and good people.”

As this strange season has unfolded, Hunt, who has a combined 1,145 yards and scored 11 touchdowns, had a premonition the Browns would face the Chiefs.

“Kareem talked about this game all year like he knew it was going to happen,” said teammate Nick Chubb. “He's excited for it. I am excited to watch him go out there and play. He's ready for it.”

After last week's win at Pittsburgh, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield thought Hunt was running “like he wanted to get to Kansas City.” Hunt then raised some eyebrows by posting that this week's game was “personal.”

On Thursday, Hunt said his remarks were only meant that he was playing good friends – not to soothe any agenda. He'll run hard. Always does.

“Bragging rights,” he said. 

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