Kareem Hunt’s signing Monday was merely the first step in his path toward earning trust with the Browns.
Actions, general manager John Dorsey said, will speak louder than Hunt’s words have thus far in his return to the NFL.
After months of investigating, research and one-on-one discussions with Hunt, Dorsey said he was comfortable bringing the Cleveland native into the Browns’ organization. Dorsey concluded Hunt, who was caught on tape kicking and shoving a woman in a February 2018 incident at a Cleveland hotel, was “truly remorseful” and worthy of a second chance.
“At the end of it, the one thing we did find was he understands and takes full accountability for the egregious act he committed,” Dorsey said. “He is extremely remorseful for his actions. What he has done is he has sought professional counseling. With regards to moving forward, anything like this situation, once he understands his situation, he is now working toward being a better man moving forward.
“Trust has to be earned, and that has to be earned with the Cleveland Browns organization and the community of Cleveland moving forward. This will be a day-to-day thing in terms of earning trust.”
That second chance, Dorsey stressed, comes with little wiggle room. Hunt, the former Pro Bowl running back with the Chiefs, will be on a “zero tolerance” policy with the organization.
“I have always believed that it is important moving forward to if a person wants to better themselves moving forward and be a better person, I am willing to give them a chance,” Dorsey said. “In terms of doing all the deep research that I have done, I believe that he will be a better man today than he was yesterday.”
Hunt, a 2017 third-round pick out of Toledo who starred at Cleveland-area Willoughby South High School, led the NFL with 1,327 rushing yards in his rookie season and was well on his way to another big year in 2018, amassing 824 rushing yards, 378 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns as a key cog in the NFL’s highest-powered offense, before it came to an abrupt halt when video of the incident surfaced.
Hunt was promptly released and went unclaimed on the NFL’s waiver wire system. Dorsey, who drafted Hunt during his time as Chiefs general manager, said he didn’t consider putting a claim on Hunt at the time because he hadn’t done enough fact-finding. It took time, he said, to figure out everything there was to know about the incident, get the opinions and feelings of others in the organization -- owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam included -- and conclude whether or not Hunt was truly sorry for what he’d done.
“It is talking to people. It is talking to multitudes of people. It is sitting or having conversations with him and understanding the depth of him,” Dorsey said. “Does he truly understand the actions that have transpired? Is he willing to move forward and develop himself as a person and be able to treat other people the way he wants to be treated? I think that is how you go about this.
“To me, words don’t earn trust. Actions earn trust. The actions have begun to be developed, and he has shown and led us to believe that he is willing to move forward here on this.”
The NFL’s investigation into the incident is ongoing, though Dorsey expects it to conclude in the coming weeks. Any league punishment doled out to Hunt will be a step in the process he’ll have to accept and overcome to strengthen the trust Dorsey expects him to earn over time.
“I think every time you go through these very difficult situations and these types of actions, you have to study everything from the person and then find out are they willing to be better people moving forward,” Dorsey said. “This happens to be one of those situations where at the end day, the organization was comfortable moving forward with signing this player.”