Browns’ Kareem Hunt not worried about trade rumors as deadline nears

BEREA − The rumors have been swirling around Kareem Hunt. The trade deadline is Tuesday at 4 p.m., and the Browns running back is one of the hot potential targets to move.

Hunt, though, isn’t taking the conversations personal.

“I mean, it is what it is,” Hunt said Saturday afternoon. “It’s a business. I just go out there and show up and play, man.”

The Browns will play less than 24 hours before the deadline to potentially move the veteran running back who is on the final year of his contract. They’ll host the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night.

The results of that game may very well determine whether or not the Browns deal Hunt. They come into the game mired in a fourth-game losing streak which has dropped them to 2-5 and two-and-a-half games behind the first-place Baltimore Ravens, who won Thursday at Tampa Bay to improve to 5-3.

“I don’t talk to them about that stuff, man,” Hunt said of any trade requests or conversations. “I just show up to work. Work for my boys, show up, chop it up with the guys. Push them.”

Browns running back Kareem Hunt, left, celebrates as he comes off the field with Nick Chubb after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-17, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Cleveland.

Browns running back Kareem Hunt, left, celebrates as he comes off the field with Nick Chubb after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-17, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Cleveland.

The Bengals come to Cleveland a half-game behind the Ravens, who have beaten both Ohio teams in the previous three weeks. The Browns, meanwhile, have won seven of eight over the Bengals, including sweeping last year’s series, one of which came in the regular-season finale in which the Bengals rested most of their key players.

A win on Monday would be a boost heading into the Browns’ bye week. A loss could mean plenty of changes, both to the roster and coaching staff.

It’s the current slide the Browns have been on, not the rumors involving his future, which Hunt can’t shake.

“Yeah, I hate losing,” Hunt said. “I’m a competitive person. I can lose at rock paper scissors and get upset so that’s the thing.”

The Browns will have essentially 16 hours after Monday night’s game to make a move if they choose to deal Hunt. If that happens, he acknowledges it would be a bittersweet moment.

Hunt grew up on the east side of Cleveland and played high school football at Willoughby South. He hopes to stay with his hometown team, but if he goes, he feels like he left his mark.

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (27) tries to escape from Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton (14) after a catch in the first second of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (27) tries to escape from Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton (14) after a catch in the first second of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

“I mean it’ll be mixed emotions, for sure,” Hunt said, “but they’ll know I gave it my all here in Cleveland and that’s what I’ll always and continue to do.”

Teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles have been linked to Hunt in the trade rumors. The exact return the Browns are hoping to get for him is generally viewed as mid-round pick, maybe a fourth-rounder.

What would a team be getting if they acquired the former NFL rushing leader?

“Yeah, they’ll get a hell of a player,” said Hunt, who signed with the Browns in 2019 after being released by the Kansas City Chiefs the previous year due to an off-the-field incident involving a woman.

Hunt’s name has been linked to potential trades since the offseason, when there was a belief the Browns had a glut of running backs behind Nick Chubb. However, nothing ever materialized from that, nor from a training camp contract dispute that went public.

Hunt and his representatives went to the Browns during camp requesting a trade, which was denied. While this was going on, he refused to participate in team drills for two camp days, only doing individual drills.

“I don’t know if it’s been or not,” Hunt said when asked if the trade rumors are a residual from those camp talks. “That’s how I felt and I’m up for whatever. I play football, man. I love the game.”

The season started with high expectations for the potential of what a Chubb-Hunt backfield could do for the Browns. That was especially true considering the questions around the quarterback position due to Deshaun Watson’s 11-game suspension.

The opener at Carolina showcased all of that potential. Despite only eight plays on the field together, the two standout backs played off of each other well.

Chubb rushed for 141 yards against the Panthers. Hunt, though, ran for 46 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and added 24 receiving yards and a touchdown on four catches.

Hunt’s workload remained steady through the next four games, at roughly 11.5 rushing attempts and between two and four targets a game. The last two weeks, though, his touches have dropped considerably, with a combined nine carries against the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens for 16 net yards, plus one 4-yard catch on three targets.

“I mean, I wouldn’t say it bothers me,” Hunt said. “I would love to help the team win but I’m a team guy. My biggest thing is winning and losing and we ain’t doing that. We ain’t winning, so.”

Hunt’s snap percentages in both the Patriots and Ravens games haven’t dropped the way his touches have in them. He was on the field for 30 snaps, or 43% of the Browns’ offensive snaps, against the Patriots and 28 snaps − 47% − against the Ravens.

Browns running back Kareem Hunt runs during the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Cleveland.

Browns running back Kareem Hunt runs during the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Cleveland.

Except for being on the field for 56% of the snaps against Carolina, Hunt’s per-game snap percentages have been steady between 43% and 49%.

“I guess it’s just how the game is going, you know?,” Hunt said. “I mean, it is what it is. I can’t control that stuff. When my number is called, I just go out there.”

Hunt has remained healthy this season, something that plagued him a year ago. His 2021 season was limited to just eight games due to injuries to his calf and ankle, plus a bout with COVID-19, and he finished with 386 rushing yards and five touchdowns as well as 174 receiving yards.

So far this season, even with the the lack of touches the past two weeks, Hunt has run for 263 yards and three touchdowns on 66 carries. He’s added 15 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.

“I mean, it ain’t easy but I’m a person who can put his pride to the side and just continue to go out there and do my job,” Hunt said. “I love the game of football and I enjoy it every time I touch the field.”

Wherever that field on which Hunt plays may be after Monday night.

Contact Chris at ceasterling@thebeaconjournal.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterling ABJ

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Kareem Hunt not worried about trade rumors as Browns ready for Bengals