Not many Browns players and coaches are capable of cracking a hearty smile on Nick Chubb during practice or game days.
That's not a detriment to Chubb or his teammates — his personality is as even-keeled as it gets. He's never been one to shout in the huddle or on the sidelines, and his focus is impossible to crack when he's on a football field.
But he does have one teammate who knows how to knock him off his guard: Kareem Hunt.
He's one of the only players who has been able to crack a few laughs from Chubb this season, and the duo's bond has only grown stronger as they spend continue to prove their worth each week as one of the most talented rushing rooms in the NFL. When Hunt does draw a laugh from Chubb, it's usually a quick chuckle. But it's a rare sight for all who remember Chubb by his laser-focus attitude.
"I can say probably Kareem is the one that gets me talking more and laughing more in the locker room than everybody," Chubb said. "I do enjoy that, hanging out and laughing and cutting up a little bit."
How does Hunt do it?
"I feel like I just be myself," he said in a Zoom call with local reporters as he smiled, placed his right hand on his hip and hunched over in deep thought. "I'm going to keep talking until he answers me. I get Nick a little bit. We see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. We've both been playing football our whole lives and playing running backs, so we relate to stuff like that."
When they haven't been together, they've usually been tearing through an opposing defense. That's what made Chubb and Hunt one of the most feared rushing duos in the league, and they've surged the Browns' offense with a rushing attack currently ranked second in the league with 1,893 rushing yards and fourth with 4.9 yards per attempt.
Cleveland has rushed for over 100 yards in all but two games this season — both of which occurred during Chubb's four-game absence due to a knee injury — and have totaled a combined 200 yards in four games.
Not many NFL teams possess a backfield with two Pro Bowl-caliber running backs, and the Browns have certainly made the most of their two-headed rushing monster this season.
"They are interchangeable," run game coordinator Stump Mitchell said. "They can do exactly the same thing as the other guy. We don't worry about what plays are being called. Both of them are starters. We trust both of them to get the job done."
Mitchell is confident that both of his running backs will record over 1,000 rushing yards this season, a feat both have accomplished once in their still-young careers. Chubb broke the mark last season when he finished second in the NFL with 1,494 rushing yards, while Hunt shattered the number with a league-leading 1,327 yards his rookie season in 2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Chubb is currently at 799 yards and on pace to finish with 1,198 yards, a remarkable number despite missing a quarter of the season due to injury. Hunt is at 739 yards and on pace to finish with 985.4 yards.
The seasonal milestone is definitely in play for both rushers, and with four games left and a chase to the playoffs underway, the Browns certainly won't be lessening the workload from the backfield anytime soon.
"I have been fired up. That's going to happen," Mitchell said. "I knew that was going to happen before the season started. That was our goal. It's just a matter of what game it's going to happen."
Those goals have been in place even longer than the offseason. The Browns knew they had potential for two rushers to reach 1,000 seasons when they acquired Hunt in 2019, but an eight-game suspension prevented him from making his Browns debut until Week 10 against Buffalo.
His first game, though, is when his relationship with Chubb took off. The duo always knew how much damage they could do on the same team, but their inseparable bond has made it even more fun to watch each other succeed.
"Kareem is an awesome back. He's incredible," Chubb said. "He can do a lot of things that I probably can't do to be honest. I was not sure what was going to happen and how it was going to be when he came in. I'm glad how things are now. I'm glad that we are working together, and I'm glad that he is on the team. I wouldn't want it any other way."
Both backs have encouraged each other all season. They're not worried about their individual outputs each week. They just want to win.
That relationship is much easier to build when strong chemistry is made and laughs are shared. The latter isn't always easy with Chubb and his rock-solid attitude on a football field, but Hunt's found a way to bring the best out of him — both on the stat sheet and on the sidelines.
"He gets himself going, too," Hunt said. "I'm just there to add a little extra."
Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Baltimore Ravens