Kareem Hunt makes a contract stand; Deshaun Watson helps unify the team: What happened on Day 9 of Browns training camp

Kareem Hunt makes a contract stand; Deshaun Watson helps unify the team: What happened on Day 9 of Browns training camp

BEREA, Ohio — Kareem Hunt had a very eventful 27th birthday.

Shortly after the end of practice, news broke that Hunt had been holding out of team drills in training camp in a contract dispute.

He wants an extension, as he first told cleveland.com in June, and is making his feelings known by participating in individual drills only.

This isn’t sitting well with the Browns, of course, who will fine Hunt for his hold-in.

Under contract for up to $6.25 million in the final year of his two-year extension, Hunt wanted a new deal before camp started, and told cleveland.com he wanted to finish his career with his hometown Browns.

The Browns, on the other hand, want Hunt to go out and earn it this season after missing nine games with injury and COVID-19 in 2021.

Hunt, who led the NFL with 1,327 rushing yards as a rookie with the Chiefs in 2017, is slated for a big role with the Browns this season, and can earn his next contract with a blockbuster season.

But if the two sides remain at an impasse, Hunt might either be traded or released.

That would be unfortunate for both sides, because the Browns have a chance to reach the Super Bowl this season if Deshaun Watson plays half the season or more, and Hunt should be a part of that.

Hopefully for all involved, they’ll work it out and Hunt will be back rumbling through defenders soon.

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John Johnson III credits Deshaun Watson for the team’s closeness

Johnson lamented the divide last season between the offense and defense, and credits Watson with helping to close the gap amid his off-the-field issues.

“Everyone has a little part in it, but I will say early in the offseason, when he took the guys to their little trip (to the Bahamas) I think that did kind of spark something for us to make everyone a lot closer,’’ Johnson said. “We did something on our off day together. Not going to give you too many details, but a lot of guys came out and we had a lot of fun. So things like that always help translate on the field.’’

Johnson believes they’re “much closer” as a team this year.

“The most connected team usually wins when you get down late in games,’’ he said. “You need that little extra little push, the extra chemistry with one another to get over that hump. … We’re all gelling much better. I don’t know if it’s because of COVID. We’re all in the same locker room now, but guys I never talked to before — literally, we’re on the same team around each other every day — and I might not have talked to them. I talk to them now and that’s spread across the whole team.’’

More team-building in Jacksonville

Stefanski, who broke up minicamp by taking the team to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, is taking the players to Jacksonville early for more team-building activities. They’ll fly down Wednesday after practice and have a walk-through in Jacksonville on Thursday. The game is Friday at 7 p.m.

“Really regardless of where we were playing, I wanted to go in early and kind of have some team activities,’’ Stefanski said. “There are some things that I think that we can get down there and take a look at in Jacksonville, which I think the players will have a nice experience doing. It just gives us opportunities to do some team-building exercises. Just being around each other, felt like (preseason) Week 1 was the right time to do that.”

Three receivers return to practice; one will ‘miss some time’

Three receivers returned to practice Saturday in David Bell (foot), Anthony Schwartz (knee) and Javon Wims (illness).

One, sixth-round pick Michael Woods II, will “miss some time” with his hamstring injury suffered Wednesday, Kevin Stefanski said.

The return of Bell and Schwartz, in particular, was a welcome sight for the Browns, because both are slated for significant roles this season. Stefanski believes they’ll catch up quickly because of so many reps in the offseason program.

Stefanski hasn’t ruled them out for the preseason game Friday night in Jacksonville.

The return of the trio enabled Stefanski to give Amari Cooper a veteran day of rest.

Injuries

The following players were idle with injuries: DT Sheldon Day (back), CB Denzel Ward (foot) and Woods (hamstring). Defensive end Stephen Weatherly was placed on injured reserve with his knee injury and will undergo season-ending surgery. He was replaced by defensive end Chris Odom, the former USFL defensive player of the year.

Defensive end Alex Wright walked into the fieldhouse with trainers, but came back and participated in 11-on-11s.

They said it

Johnson on Nick Chubb: “Just power, just like explosiveness. You don’t want to get in front of him. I think I played him a couple years ago, and it wasn’t fun. It’s just a physical, freak ability that he has, and he doesn’t waste movement. He gets right to his spots and powers through holes. It’s unbelievable to watch.’’

Bill Callahan, on Wyatt Teller saying he’s not afraid to get in the big linemen’s faces for a smaller guy: “No. No. He embellishes a little bit. We all know Wyatt, right?”

They did it

TE Zaire Mitchell-Paden punctuates practice with a red zone TD catch from Josh Rosen, and yells “that’s how you end a practice!”

The Browns were happy to see Bell back on the field.

Greg Newsome II, determined to get some picks this year, had two on Saturday.

Martin Emerson is getting plenty of work with the ones with Ward out.

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