The Cleveland Browns may be without running back Kareem Hunt for the first eight games of the season, but it could result in the best Hunt when he returns.
On paper, the Cleveland Browns boast one of the best running back depth charts in the NFL. With Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Duke Johnson, and Dontrell Hilliard, it’s hard to find a better group of backs in the league.
However, the Browns may never see the potential of that group together. With Hunt suspended for the first half of the season and Johnson wanting to be traded, it is extremely unlikely that Chubb, Hunt, and Johnson play together.
But even if the Browns cannot reap the full benefits of that group together, they will have an opportunity to play one of the best up-and-coming backs in Chubb with Hunt, who was one of the best running backs in the NFL the past two seasons. They will just have to wait until Week 10 until they can use that pairing.
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Although the Browns may have wished they would get to see that pairing on the field sooner, it may result in seeing the best Hunt of his career. Even Hunt’s former teammate with the Kansas City Chiefs, Travis Kelce, believes the Browns will be getting the best version of Hunt – via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com.
"“I think so, without a doubt,’’ Kelce, the former Cleveland Heights star said before Jarvis Landry’s celebrity softball game at Classic Park. “Me and Kareem have been good friends ever since he got to Kansas City. Another fellow Clevelander. He’s a northeast Ohio guy. I think you guys are getting an unbelievable athlete, somebody that can change the game with one or two carries, one or two touches and really give you a chance to win.” – Travis Kelce via cleveland.com"
For a lot of players, being forced to be off the field will make the player want to prove people wrong when they return to the field. When Hunt’s expected return to be Week 10 against the Buffalo Bills, it would be his first regular season game after 11 months off the field. So he may feel he has a lot to prove after missing so much time.
Since joining the Browns, the organization has put Hunt into a structured program in order for Hunt to learn from his mistake and to work to become a better person. And despite most players who are suspended not being allowed to be at the team’s facility during the suspension, the Browns are hoping that they will be able to have Hunt at the facility during his suspension so they can make sure he is still following the program.
If the NFL allows Hunt to be around the facility, it will help him off the field, as well as helping him be better prepared for when he returns to the field. It may take a game for Hunt to feel comfortable being back on the field, but that adjustment could not be as hard if he is with the team during the first half of the season.
One of the small benefits to Hunt’s suspension is that health and workload will not be a concern when he returns to the field. There is always a concern about a running backs health for an entire season because of the amount hits they take throughout a season, so teams will limit their workload throughout a 16-game schedule.
But with Hunt basically having a year off, there should be no concerns about any wear and tear. And by the time he is playing for the Browns, Hunt should be able to manage a full workload. And by the time he would be hitting his mid-season stride, it will be at the end of the season and right before the playoffs.
Hunt said in February that he is working to be the “best, healthier version” of himself. He is already showing he has made a lot of progress off the field. And when Hunt returns to the field to play his first snaps for the Browns, the Browns will hope that Hunt utilizes the time to become the best version of himself as a football player as well.