LB Anthony Walker walked up behind newly signed RB Kareem Hunt, threw his arms around Hunt's shoulders and yelled, "Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back!"
Welcome back, indeed.
After RB Nick Chubb's season-ending knee injury, the Browns needed to add depth to their running back room. They announced on Wednesday they signed RB Kareem Hunt, who previously played for the Browns from 2019-22. In 2022, he rushed for 468 yards and three touchdowns, as well as 210 receiving yards and a touchdown catch. Hunt was a free agent this offseason.
Hunt watched Chubb's injury live on Monday Night Football and was gutted seeing that type of injury happen to his former teammate. In the days since, he briefly reached out to Chubb and talked with him.
"I just said my quick words to him," Hunt said. "Just I'm praying for him and praying for a strong recovery, and I told him he'll be back, man. He's the greatest. He's a great one. So, he'll be back."
RB Kareem Hunt is returning to the Browns, who played four seasons in Cleveland beginning in 2019. In 2022 with the Browns, Hunt rushed for 468 yards and three touchdowns, while also adding 210 receiving yards and a touchdown catch. Hunt was a free agent this offseason.
Now, Hunt is focused on his opportunity in Cleveland and is excited to be back in the same building once again. Hunt praised both the Browns offense and the defense and was enthusiastic about the potential they have to put it all together and work towards their goals as a team.
"I came ready to play and win," Hunt said. "I'm just ready to go out there and showcase my talent. I know what I bring to the table when I play the game of football, so I'm excited."
Head coach Kevin Stefanski said he watched Hunt's workout on Tuesday at the Browns' facility, and thought Hunt was in good shape. They will use this week of practices to prepare Hunt to be in football shape.
Hunt has a familiarity with the Browns offense from his previous time in Cleveland, which Stefanski said factored into the decision to add Hunt. It also helped Stefanski feel that Hunt was a solid fit for what the Browns are trying to do offensively. Hunt knows a bit of the playbook and picks up information quickly, which can allow him to make the transition to the new elements of the Browns offense.
"I think Kareem, first day in the building, kind of a different first day because he's been here before, but he's really working hard to make sure he can catch up," Stefanski said. "And then I think the young guys will watch how Kareem works at practice, in particular in the games. He practices hard, he plays hard."
There's also Stefanski's familiarity with Hunt's ability, and the different run and pass types that he excels in. He brings different elements of his game in his running style. Stefanski described Hunt as a physical runner, with a slashing style who excels at catching the football.
Stefanski said Hunt brings a balanced skill set to their running backs, especially with their two second-year players in Jerome Ford and Pierre Strong Jr. Hunt believes that he and Ford can pair well together in the backfield with how they can wear down defenses and break runs.
However, Stefanski reiterated on Wednesday that Ford would still be the lead back for the Browns.
"We have to work through all of those type of things and what Kareem's ready to do this week if he's ready to go this week, and what type of load he can carry and Pierre Strong," Stefanski said. "So, I think we need to work through all of that. But yes, Jerome is the starter."
Stefanski said there is a chance that Hunt could play in the Browns game on Sunday against the Titans. He wants to see how the remainder of the week plays out, but Stefanski has not ruled the possibility out.
Whether or not Hunt takes the field on Sunday, having Hunt's presence in the locker room and on the sideline, paired with his talent as a running back, can give the Browns a bit of a morale boost.
"When you have a Kareem Hunt, a guy like that who's been in our system, been in Cleveland, as a Brown through and through, he understands what we need," Walker said. "His energy. He's a boost of energy. As soon as he walked through the door, a lot of guys got excited when they saw him, so you never take that for granted. Man, a great teammate. Obviously, a great runner, great catcher out the backfield. He's definitely going to help us in a huge way this year. Like I said, you can't replace a Nick Chubb, but we can start to fill those shoes with Kareem Hunt and the rest of that room."