Kareem Hunt

Browns’ Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum Ruled Out

Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum weren’t able to test out of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols in time for today’s game (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). With that, Nick Mullens is set to start for the Browns against the Raiders today.

[RELATED: Raiders-Browns Moved To Monday]

The Browns were able to activate safety John Johnson III from the list, but the bulk of their COVID-19 positive players from last week will be held out. To fill the roster, the Browns have elevated cornerbacks Brian Allen and Herb Miller, safeties Tedric Thompson and Jovante Moffatt, defensive end Joe Jackson, guard Hjalte Froholdt, and running back John Kelly for tonight’s game.

Without their top two QBs, the Browns will need a big day out of their running backs. Unfortunately, that group won’t include Kareem Hunt, who also finds himself on the COVID-19 list. Instead, they’ll look to Nick Chubb, who has 5.5 yards per carry on the year, and D’Ernest Johnson, the reserve who turned in a couple of impressive performances earlier this year.

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Browns Place RB Kareem Hunt, Seven Others On Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Browns have placed more players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, including running back Kareem Hunt. The team announced that the following players have landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list:

In his third season with the Browns, Hunt has totalled 386 rushing yards and five touchdowns, along with an additional 174 yards on 22 catches in eight games. The 26-year-old has been a key member of the Browns’ backfield alongside Nick Chubb, helping the team average 143.5 rushing yards per game, ranking fourth in the NFL.

The team also announced that offensive assistant coach T.C. McCartney has tested positive for COVID-19. We learned earlier today that the NFL was pushing Saturday’s game between the Browns and Raiders to Monday.

Meanwhile, Cleveland activated linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. from the reserve/COVID-19 list, and they’ve signed quarterback Kyle Lauletta to the active roster off the Jaguars practice squad. Lauletta, 26, has appeared in just two NFL games. Both were with the Giants in 2018, where he went 0-for-five with one interception. He has since spent time on the Eagles’, Falcons’ and Browns’ practice squads, only going to Jacksonville’s after being waived at the end of August.

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Browns RB Kareem Hunt Expected To Miss Week 15

It sounds like the Browns will have to play without two key players on Saturday against the Raiders. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters that running back Kareem Hunt and cornerback Troy Hill are considered week-to-week and aren’t expected to play this weekend.

[RELATED: Browns Place Eight Players On COVID-19 List]

This is unfortunate timing for Hunt, who just returned from a calf injury that he suffered in Week 6. Hunt was limited to a season-low 20 offensive snaps on Sunday after suffering an ankle injury, an ailment that will likely knock him out for additional contests. The running back had 1,145 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns during the 2020 campaign, but he’s been limited to only 560 yards and five scores this season.

“That is the nature of the beast,” Stefanski said (via Andrew Gribble of the team’s website). “Obviously, you hate injuries, and the competitor that Kareem is, you hate that he is going through this, but he has to rehab and get back as soon as he can.”

Hill has gotten plenty of run in Cleveland’s secondary this season, but his injury couldn’t come at a worse time. Cornerback Greg Newsome II is currently in concussion protocol, while safety Ronnie Harrison is dealing with an ankle injury. The Browns will presumably add another defensive back to their roster prior to Saturday night.

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Browns Activate RB Kareem Hunt, RT Jack Conklin

As expected, the Browns will be getting some reinforcement tomorrow night against the Ravens. The team has officially activated running back Kareem Hunt and and right tackle Jack Conklin from injured reserve. Both players are listed as questionable but are expected to play. Cleveland has also waived guard Hjalte Froholdt and defensive end Joe Jackson, and they’ve promoted defensive end Porter Gustin and wideout Jojo Natson from the practice squad (via Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal on Twitter).

Hunt has been on Cleveland’s IR list since suffering a calf injury in Week 6. Despite Hunt missing extensive time and Nick Chubb being sidelined for multiple games as well, Cleveland’s vaunted rushing attack still leads the NFL. Hunt, however, was averaging 5.2 yards per carry through six games. The ex-rushing champion has topped out at 4.9 over a full season.

Hunt has experienced knee and wrist issues as well this season, and he is unlikely to be 100% again until the 2022 campaign. But Hunt returning at slightly less than 100% would certainly help a Browns team that has struggled through the air. The running back duo obviously affects the Browns’ offensive output. In five games with Chubb and Hunt active, the Browns are averaging 28.4 points and 417.6 yards per game. In the six in which either has missed, they have scored just 16.5 points per contest while averaging barely 315 yards, via ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter).

Conklin went down with a dislocated elbow in Week 8, adding a three-game absence on top of a two-game hiatus earlier this season. The Browns gave the ex-Titans right tackle a three-year, $42MM deal in 2020. His five missed games this season mark his first extended absence since 2018, when he missed nine games. The former first-round pick remains one of the NFL’s best right tackles. Pro Football Focus grades Conklin 14th among all tackles in his abbreviated 2021 slate.

Jackson has appeared in a career-high 10 games this season, collecting 11 tackles and one sack. Froholdt has seen time in four games for Cleveland this season. Gustin got into 14 games for the Browns last year but has been limited to only one appearance in 2021. Natson has also seen time in one game this season, returning three kickoffs.

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Browns Designate Kareem Hunt, Jack Conklin For Return

FRIDAY: Both Hunt and Conklin are expected to return when first eligible. Kevin Stefanski said he anticipates each key contributor being activated and suiting up in the Browns’ pivotal Week 12 game against the Ravens on Sunday night, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. While Cleveland has 21 days to activate each player, it looks like neither will stay in IR-return limbo longer than a week.

WEDNESDAY: Two key pieces of the Browns’ offense will be back on the practice field Wednesday. The team designated Kareem Hunt and Jack Conklin to return from IR, opening their respective 21-day activation windows.

Hunt has been on Cleveland’s IR list since suffering a calf injury in Week 6. Conklin went down with a dislocated elbow in Week 8, adding a three-game absence on top of a two-game hiatus earlier this season. Both will be eligible to return Sunday, should the Browns move to activate them by Saturday afternoon’s deadline.

Despite Hunt missing extensive time and Nick Chubb being sidelined for multiple games as well, Cleveland’s vaunted rushing attack still leads the NFL. Hunt, however, was averaging 5.2 yards per carry through six games. The ex-rushing champion has topped out at 4.9 over a full season.

Hunt has experienced knee and wrist issues as well this season, and he is unlikely to be 100% again until the 2022 campaign. But Hunt returning at slightly less than 100% would certainly help a Browns team that has struggled through the air. The running back duo obviously affects the Browns’ offensive output. In five games with Chubb and Hunt active, the Browns are averaging 28.4 points and 417.6 yards per game. In the six in which either has missed, they have scored just 16.5 points per contest while averaging barely 315 yards, via ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter).

Like Hunt, Conklin is signed through the 2022 season. The Browns gave the ex-Titans right tackle a three-year, $42MM deal in 2020. His five missed games this season mark his first extended absence since 2018, when he missed nine games. The former first-round pick remains one of the NFL’s best right tackles. Pro Football Focus grades Conklin 14th among all tackles in his abbreviated 2021 slate.

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Baker Mayfield Not Expected To Miss Time

Already battling a fractured shoulder, Baker Mayfield left Sunday’s game in New England with a knee injury. The Browns are not likely to need another Case Keenum fill-in start, however.

Neither Mayfield nor Kevin Stefanski expect a second missed start, though the fourth-year quarterback said (via cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, on Twitter) this is probably the most beat up he has been in his football career. Mayfield is not practicing Wednesday.

Mayfield escaped his latest injury without structural damage, suffering a knee contusion in the Browns’ loss to the Patriots. Mayfield’s shoulder issue did require one missed game, a narrow Week 7 win over the Broncos, but he has otherwise played through that issue — one that will almost certainly require offseason surgery. The Browns face the 0-8-1 Lions in Week 11.

As for Mayfield’s backfield, Nick Chubb remains on the Browns’ reserve/COVID-19 list. The Pro Bowl back is vaccinated and can return by submitting negative tests two days apart. Stefanski added Kareem Hunt will not return in Week 11, despite being eligible to do so. The fifth-year back has missed four games with his calf injury but is moving closer to returning. Demetric Felton also remains on Cleveland’s COVID list. The Browns activated running back John Kelly from their virus list.

The Browns have played without both Chubb and Hunt twice this season. D’Ernest Johnson was the last man standing in both games, and the ex-Alliance of American Football performer would start against the Lions if Chubb is not activated by Saturday afternoon. In his third Browns season, Johnson is averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

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Browns Tried To Claim RB Royce Freeman

Ahead of a key AFC matchup, the Browns have run into extensive trouble at running back. They attempted to aid a shorthanded group by putting in a waiver claim for Royce Freeman, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. But the Texans’ waiver priority prevented such a move.

In reuniting the Freeman-Phillip Lindsay tandem from Denver, Houston (1-8) stopped Cleveland (5-4) from bolstering a backfield missing not just its top two cogs but down backups as well. Going into Sunday’s game against the Patriots, the Browns have only D’Ernest Johnson on their active roster.

Nick Chubb tested positive for COVID-19 this week. So did fellow backs Demetric Felton and John Kelly. These three are part of a five-man Browns contingent on the team’s coronavirus list. Chubb is vaccinated, so he still has a chance to play Sunday. While he would need only to test negative twice in a two-day period, players who have tested positive during the week have almost unanimously not played in their respective team’s upcoming game.

Kareem Hunt remains on IR, and Kevin Stefanski said this will not be the week he returns from IR. Hunt could be down until December, per ESPN.com’s Kimberley Martin (on Twitter), adding the fifth-year running back likely will not be 100% again this season due to the knee and wrist injuries he was battling before the October calf issue sent him to IR. The Browns have not started Hunt’s 21-day IR-return clock.

The Browns now have Brian Hill and Dexter Williams on their practice squad. One of the two will be in line to serve as Johnson’s primary backup against New England. In Johnson’s lone other start, against the Broncos, he totaled 146 rushing yards on 22 carries.

As for Freeman, the Panthers gave him 21 totes this season before cutting him once Christian McCaffrey returned. Freeman has 77 rushing yards and no touchdowns; the former third-round pick has not scored a TD since 2019. Nevertheless, the Oregon alum has been a popular player on the wire. The Ravens and Raiders tried to claim Freeman in August, following his Broncos departure, and the Browns came up short during Freeman’s second waiver go-round.

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Browns’ Kareem Hunt To Miss Time

The Browns are pretty banged up. Running back Kareem Hunt‘s calf injury is “pretty significant,” according to head coach Kevin Stefanski (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Meanwhile, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is also dealing with a calf strain. Both injuries generally require 4-6 weeks of recovery, leaving Cleveland short-handed on both sides of the ball.

Both players are likely to be placed on injured reserve, allowing the Browns to restock their roster. Per league rules, they can return in as little as three weeks, but it sounds like they’ll be shelved until late November or early December.

The Browns were already hurting in the backfield, thanks to Nick Chubb‘s calf injury. They’re down to just two RBs now — D’Ernest Johnson and sixth-round rookie Demetric Felton.

Hunt saw a much larger role in 2020, his second Browns season. He totaled 1,145 yards from scrimmage and eleven scores, plus three touchdowns in two playoff games. Hunt remains under contract through the 2022 season while Chubb is signed through 2024 thanks to his three-year, $36.6MM extension.

Through six games, Chubb has 361 rushing yards off of 69 carries, good for an average of 5.2 yards per tote. He’s also registered 20 grabs for 161 yards — roughly half of last year’s receiving totals.

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Browns Will Not Trade Kareem Hunt

The Browns are once again a popular pick to make a deep postseason run, and their talent at running back is one of many reasons why. The depth chart is topped by Nick Chubb, who has earned two Pro Bowl nods in three professional seasons and whose 5.2 YPC average underscores his excellence. Behind Chubb, of course, is Kareem Hunt, a similarly capable runner who is also a force in the passing game.

When the Rams lost Cam Akers to an Achilles tear last week, there was chatter that LA could look to the free agent or trade markets to replace him. While the Rams have indicated they are comfortable with their in-house options, Hunt would profile as an intriguing trade target for any RB-needy team given the Browns’ depth (Cleveland is also rostering third-year pro D’Ernest Johnson, who has played well in limited snaps, and sixth-round rookie Demetric Felton).

Hunt’s trade appeal is heightened by the fact that he is tied to eminently reasonable base salaries of $1.3MM and $1.35MM over the next two seasons. However, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (subscription required) writes that the Browns have no interest in trading Hunt.

As Cabot observes, the Browns did not suffer much of a drop-off at all when Hunt replaced an injured Chubb for a few games in 2020, and she expects the club to continue to expand Hunt’s role. Thanks to Hunt’s receiving prowess, he and Chubb could appear on the field together a great deal this season, which will only make a potentially explosive offense even more dynamic. So regardless of whatever injuries or underperformance rival clubs might experience this summer, Hunt will not be made available.

In other Browns news, Cabot reports that no players will open training camp on the PUP list. Players like Odell Beckham, Grant Delpit, and Greedy Williams are all coming off major injuries, but they will be ready to hit the field with their teammates right away (though the Browns will continue to be cautious, of course).

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This Date In Transactions History: Browns Sign Kareem Hunt

Two years ago today, the Browns made a controversial move that has (so far) paid off for the organization. On February 11, 2019, Cleveland announced that the signing of running back Kareem Hunt.

From an on-the-field perspective, the move made plenty of sense. Hunt ran for 1,327 yards as a rookie in 2017, and he followed that up with a 14-touchdown season in 2018 despite playing in only 11 games. The talent was (and still is) undeniable. Hunt also had a relationship with former Browns GM John Dorsey that dated back to their stints in Kansas City.

From an off-the-field perspective, the move was divisive. At the time of the signing, Hunt was under investigation for three separate 2018 events — most notably an incident captured on video that showed him shoving and kicking a woman at a Cleveland complex. Hunt was released by the Chiefs following the release of the video. That transaction took place before the NFL could react, and following his signing with Cleveland, Hunt was promptly placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt list.

The literal signing also proved to be a topic of contention. Hunt inked a one-year deal that could be worth up to $1MM. This was an increase from the $678K he was set to make with Kansas City in 2019. While a subsequent suspension would reduce any salary, Hunt still took home more money than if he had been retained by his former team.

Hunt was ultimately banned for the first eight games of the 2019 season, and he was reinstated by the league in early November. He naturally slid in as a backup behind Nick Chubb, who would soon complete a Pro Bowl season that saw him rush for 1,494 yards and eight touchdowns. Hunt ultimately appeared in eight games (three starts) for the Browns in 2019, collecting 464 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns.

The running back was slapped with a second-round tender after the season, and he ended up getting a two-year, $13.25MM extension from the organization this past September. Hunt saw a much larger role during his second season in Cleveland, compiling 1,145 yards from scrimmage and 11 scores. Hunt also saw time in two playoff games, collecting three total touchdowns. The running back remains under contract through the 2022 season, which is especially relevant considering Chubb’s impending free agency after next season. While the two-headed monster should return in 2021, Cleveland’s backfield could look a whole lot different in 2022.

Hunt’s past continues to make him a controversial figure, and both the player and the Browns will have a tough time shaking this notion as long as Hunt’s in Cleveland. Still, when coupling the player’s production with the future flexibility he’ll provide, there’s no doubting that the move has worked out for Cleveland.

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