Back in February, Kareem Hunt faced allegations of shoving and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel. At the end of November, TMZ obtained and published video of the incident, which you can see for yourself here. Later that same evening, the Kansas City Chiefs released the star running back, and the rest is history. As for Hunt’s future, however, that’s far less certain.
You might’ve noticed the Bears making headlines lately, because of the way GM Ryan Pace and Head Coach Matt Nagy did not rule out signing a player who was released, went unclaimed on waivers, is a free agent, or is currently on the Commissioner’s Exempt list until further notice (i.e. Hunt). But to be fair, this all feels like an over-simplification of a complicated topic/response. So let’s analyze what was actually said when Hunt was brought up during Monday’s press conference and decide for ourselves.
First, Pace was asked if Hunt’s past eliminated him from consideration as a free agent. Pace didn’t expand much with his answer:
“That’s a good question. As we go into that, obviously, there’s a lot of things off the field that he’s got to take care of. Matt knows Kareem, but I don’t know Kareem. That’s things are all going to have to play out.”
Pace was later asked if his own history of signing troubled players – a reference to signing Ray McDonald in March 2015 (he was released two months later) – would affect or factor into his decision-making process when it came to Hunt:
“I think every one of those is unique. Every one is different. All the circumstances are always different. So we’re not even there yet, you know what I mean? I know what he is as a player from watching, Matt knows a little bit more about him as a person, but we’re not even close to that point.”
Alright. I guess. So where are we?
What stands out most from that handful of sentences was the “we’re not even close to that point” bit. When you consider that and the comments about Hunt having “a lot of things off the field” to take care of and you might land somewhere different than the headlines. Sure, none of that is ruling Hunt out, but context is key and that doesn’t strike me as anything concrete, at all. But that’s only half the story.
There’s also Nagy, who knows Hunt from his time as the Chiefs’ OC last season. When asked how he would respond if Pace asked for his recommendation whether or not the Bears should pursue Hunt, Nagy gave a more detailed answer:
“There’s one thing right now Kareem and that’s worrying about him as a person. I talked to Kareem, completely wanting to know how he’s doing and we had a good conversation. Here’s a kid that I spent a year coaching on offense. It’s a tough situation. I wanted to see, making sure he’s okay, but understanding too that the situation that happened is unfortunate for everybody and he knows that. The only thing I cared about when I talked to him was his personal life, how he’s doing, and it was a good conversation. He sounded good, but that’s it. The other stuff, that’s not where it’s at. There’s more to it than the football, so we talked strictly on that.”
Nagy emphasized the conversation he had “about a week ago” with Hunt was strictly personal and nothing to do about football. And like Pace, Nagy made note that the football stuff is “not where it’s at.” It’s worth noting that the head coach and general manager were on the same page when discussing Hunt, though that’s to be expected.
Later, Nagy went into more detail when asked about his experience with Hunt and was asked to describe him as a person.
“I had a really good experience with him. On the football field, you can see what he does. He ended up leading the league in rushing last year as a rookie, so that speaks right there. As far as a person, there was no issues at all. He was a really, really good kid. He came to work every day, wasn’t late for meetings, any of that. So it was obviously a surprise and it’s an unfortunate situation for everybody. We all understand. It’s a learning lesson for everybody. And that’s the biggest thing, is that making sure that he understood that when I talked to him. But I also understand there’s other parties involved and so does he. That’s life and you want to make sure that you handle it the right way.”
As can be the case with a player-coach relationship, a coach’s knowledge doesn’t always extend beyond the playing field, even if you think it should. Nagy knows Hunt was always in attendance and never tardy for meetings, or, at least, that’s all he’s willing to share. With that as our backdrop, you can see why there might be a focus on the personal side of things when Nagy was discussing their conversation.
As for deserving a second chance, Nagy made it known he was a believer in the idea, but didn’t specifically talk about the Bears being the team giving Hunt another opportunity:
“Here’s what I’ll say to this. When you talk about second chances, what’s the second chance? What’s your situation? So with him, that’s not for me to decide. I will say this, for me personally, depending on certain people’s situations, I’m a guy that’s always been … I was raised the way to give guys second chances, not third chances. But I’ve kind of learned through Coach Reid. He’s done that several times with some people. But I’ll also say every situation is different, so you know, that’s his situation and I wanted to talk to him as a true personal side.
After filtering through what was said, I can understand the perception that the Bears might be willing to roll the dice and take a chance on Hunt – but only after serious deliberation between the coach, front office, and probably ownership. It’s not unfounded, they really didn’t rule it out when given the chance.
Of course, even Nagy deferred to Pace when he said “that’s not for me to decide,” and Pace deferred to Nagy’s knowledge of the player when he was asked if Hunt’s past would eliminate him from being someone the team considers in free agency. Unsurprisingly, Hunt engenders mixed reactions and confusing positions among Bears fans, as well.
The range is somewhere between this poll from Waddle and Silvy …
Would you be upset if the #Bears signed Kareem Hunt?
— Silvy (@WaddleandSilvy) January 14, 2019
… to this wonderfully put together piece by the Chicago Tribune’s Colleen Kane, who notes that going after Hunt wouldn’t vibe with the high-character mantra the Bears have established with their players in 2018.
So, again, have the Bears ruled out Hunt? Based on responses from Nagy and Pace, no. They’re not exactly jumping in with both feet, either, but that would be a pretty poor strategy, regardless of how they truly felt. The only thing we know for certain – right now – is that this is just the beginning of a complicated saga that may have the Bears tied up in the middle of some controversy.