Every single team in the entire NFL can afford to benefit from a rehabilitated version of Kareem Hunt except for the only team who has anything invested.
Nearly two months after releasing star running back Kareem Hunt, the Kansas City Chiefs are in an interesting position. It’s the unfolding situation that the only team in the National Football League who cannot enjoy a rehabilitated version of the running back is the only one with anything invested in the first place.
Earlier this week, Roger Goodell addressed Kareem Hunt’s ongoing investigation with the media and said that things were progressing quickly. The NFL’s commissioner made it sound as if some closure and final decision concerning discipline could be coming soon, which means the league’s rushing leader from the 2017 season would know for sure when he could return to the field and what, if any, hurdles remained in place until then.
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A quick review: the Chiefs released Hunt two months ago in early December when a video surfaced via TMZ Sports showing Hunt’s assault of a woman in Ohio stemming from an incident last February. At the time, the victim and Hunt filed cross-complaints, accusing each other of assault, and police officers on the scene failed to charge anyone. It was one of multiple offseason incidents involving Hunt, but none of them resulted in any actual legal trouble.
As the regular season got underway for the Chiefs, the question marks surrounding Hunt faded into the background. It was easy to assume that if Hunt had really done anything of consequence, then he would have been arrested and charged in any such incident.
Once the video was released via TMZ, however, the league not only had proof that Hunt played a role larger than initially described, but the Chiefs had proof that their own running back had been lying to them all along. As reports came out from Hunt and the team, it was clear the franchise questioned Hunt on multiple occasions about these offseason events. It was also made clear, again by team and player, that Hunt lied to the Chiefs more than once.
The Chiefs’ release of Hunt wasn’t simply about getting rid of a player who ran with the wrong crowd or who made poor decisions while drunk or who has anger management issues. Instead, it was about trust and whether or not the team could retain a player who had refused to come clean despite being given multiple chances to do so. At the time it made sense, even if it was painful from a production standpoint.
At that point, the bridge back to Kansas City was burned. According to Nate Taylor of The Athletic, “The Chiefs told Hunt that he would never play in their uniform again, but they would do what they could to help him remain in the NFL if he takes the necessary steps to improve his behavior and make better decisions.”
Since his release, Hunt has not only admitted his mistakes but he’s taken measures to make sure this sort of incident never happens again. He’s reportedly sought help for both alcohol issues and anger management. He’s also sought out a mentor figure in a pastor he trusts. Accountability is a powerful thing, and Hunt is setting up pillars of needed support to make sure he doesn’t blow any further chances that come his way.
Therein lies the frustrating position the Chiefs are in at this point. Hunt is a first-time offender in the NFL and will be given a second chance without a doubt. At this point, he’s already missed five games (and maybe could be credited for more since he also missed two playoff games with the Chiefs). Depending on any further discipline from the NFL, his time served, as they say, could be applied to allow him to play immediately in 2019—or, at the very least, to only miss 1-3 games.
In other words, one of 31 other teams—any team other than the Chiefs—will be employing a running back talented enough to lead the entire NFL in rushing on a team-friendly deal who will come into next season humbled and hungry. There’s little question that Hunt will keep his head down but rush with a chip on his shoulder, anxious to prove his greatness all over again.
It’s frustrating that Hunt couldn’t simply come clean with the Chiefs at some point along the way. It’s frustrating that the two parties ultimately watched any trust, the glue for any meaningful relationship, completely dissolve. On this side of things, the return of Hunt could be an inspiring story of a young man turning an important emotional corner while surrounded by the team that invested in him in the first place.
Instead, some other team is going to enjoy a charged man on the field and a changed man off of it.