WILLOUGHBY — The way the Browns' 2021 season unfolded on the field was frustrating enough for Kareem Hunt. The fact he spent more than half of it watching instead of playing just added to the frustration.
"You know, it's tough because I'm not used to sitting at home and watching some games on the couch and stuff like that," Hunt said Wednesday at his youth camp at his alma mater, Willoughby South High School. "So it was kind of a weird thing. I don't like that feeling not being able to go out there and help the team so it was very tough."
Hunt initially missed five games with a calf injury sustained in an Oct. 17 loss to Arizona. He played in two games upon returning Nov. 28, both against Baltimore, before an ankle injury in the Dec. 12 game against the Ravens — plus a 10-day stint on the COVID-19 list — put him on the shelf for the final four games.
The Browns went 4-5 in the nine games Hunt missed on their way to an 8-9 final record. In eight games last year, Hunt carried 78 times for 386 yards (4.9 average) and five touchdowns to go along with 22 catches for 174 yards.
Hunt admitted Wednesday he could've played in the final two games of the season — at Pittsburgh and against Cincinnati — had the Browns' had a stronger playoff chance. He had actually practiced the week of the Steelers game, but was inactive for the game.
"I would have went out there and gave it everything I could," Hunt said. "Definitely, if that chance was still on the line."
Hunt is part of one of the more crowded position on the team this year. The Browns' running back group includes not just Nick Chubb and D'Ernest Johnson, but also the versatile Demetric Felton and rookie Jerome Ford.
For Hunt, though, it's all about just being healthy again.
"I'm good, I'm 100%," Hunt said. "I have some time to heal this offseason and get back to it. So body is feeling good, nothing's bothering me."
The only thing that may be a mild annoyance for Hunt, if at all, is the potential for a new contract with the Browns. He's in the final year of the two-year, $13.25 million extension he signed in 2020.
A year ago at the same youth camp, Hunt implored the Browns to sign his backfield mate, Chubb, to a new deal. This year, he admitted the plea to the team was much more personal.
"I hope I get paid," Hunt said with a laugh. "So you know, whatever they decide, they know I'm going to come out there and give it my all and I'll do whatever I can to help the team win."
Hunt didn't sound pessimistic about the prospects of getting a new deal with the team. He's been with the Browns since signing as an unrestricted free agent in 2019 after being released by the Chiefs because of an incident where he shoved and kicked a woman in his Cleveland apartment building
For Hunt, being able to come back home and play has been rewarding. That's also why he's pushing to get a new deal in order to remain in Northeast Ohio.
"It's important," Hunt said. "I get to do stuff like this all the time in my hometown, my high school, middle school's over there. So it's important. It's good to be around my family, everybody's here, coaches. It's a lot of familiar faces out here."
First, though, Hunt wants to just get back on the field full-time. The nine games he missed a year ago were the first he's missed due to injury in his career. He did serve an eight-game suspension from the NFL in 2019 for personal-conduct policy violations because of the incident that led to the Chiefs releasing him.
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While last year may have been a new experience with having to miss time due to significant injuries, what isn't new is how Hunt's approaching his offseason training. Even with the injuries, he didn't find himself adjusting his routine.
"Not too much," Hunt said. "I just feel like I just gotta stay on top of my body, just working through it before something like that can pop up. I stay focused on my calves now, rubbing them out, rolling them out, doing everything I can."
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This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Kareem Hunt healthy and looking for new deal with Browns