The Cleveland Browns are off on Monday and that means the NFL training camp with the perhaps the most oddities and distractions will take a needed break because, by the way, more strange stuff is coming soon.
The Browns, you may know are a legacy NFL team that used to be a big deal in the Otto Graham and even Jim Brown days, but have fallen on hard times most of the past three or four decades. Well, this year the team figured it could return to relevance and even greatness by trading away three first-round draft picks for quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Then giving Watson a $230 million contract.
All this while understanding Watson was being sued by 24 women and there was a criminal investigation under way for him allegedly sexually assaulting and harassing Houston area women, all of whom were massage therapists.
Now we’re eyebrows deep in what happened next because Watson paid out settlements, was investigated and acquitted by two grand juries, was investigated by the NFL, and suspended the first six games of the season, and is still under a cloud of uncertainty because the NFL appealed the suspension, saying Watson’s behavior with massage therapists merits a season-long suspension and/or a fine of $7-$10 million.
Take a breath because all that alone is a lot.
But more is coming
The American Massage Therapy Association really dislikes Watson. The association released a statement upset about Watson’s six-game suspension, saying it believes “any client who steps over the line to inappropriate touch should face the legal consequences.”
But that’s not all. Because the AMTA has decided to bring its annual national convention this year to, not kidding here, Cleveland.
Thousands of massage therapists are scheduled to meet at the Huntington Convention Center, a two-minute walk from the Browns’ home at First Energy Stadium from Aug. 25-27.
It’s unclear what the AMTA will do about Watson while its membership is on the ground in Cleveland. An email to a spokesperson did not get a reply before publication.
But I wonder if local media will send camera crews to the convention site and ask about Watson? I wonder if Browns fans are going to turn on their 6 o’clock news to angry massage therapists later this month?
Granted, this isn’t likely to short-circuit the Browns season.
A Watson season-long suspension might. A court battle between the NFL and NFL Players Association also wouldn’t help, and that remains a possibility if Peter Harvey, who is hearing the NFL appeal after being designated on by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, rules to extend Watson’s suspension.
And while the Browns manage uncertainty with their passing game, their running game is also not without issues.
That’s because running back Kareem Hunt the past week requested to be traded because he’s unhappy he’s in the final year of his contract and hasn’t had it extended, a league source confirmed to OutKick. Cleveland.com, which first reported Hunt’s request, reported the player was told nope to his trade request.
Hunt on Friday and Saturday did an in-camp contract hold in of sorts. For two consecutive days he participated in individual drills but declined to take part in team drills.
All to show his displeasure.
The hold-in was put on pause Sunday because Hunt returned to full practice, including team drills. But his secret is out. He wants a new contract and isn’t happy about his situation.
Hunt has not spoken to reporters. Coach Kevin Stefanski, who has been managing the Deshaun Watson issue by often times deflecting pointed questions about off-field indiscretions, proved Sunday he can easily juggle another ball of distraction.
“We are working, there is no distraction,” Stefanski said. “I understand there are things that happen that certainly get attention, and that’s OK.”
Stefanski said a situation such as Hunt’s “is normal” before adding, “This is NFL football, as far as I know.”
Sorry, this is not normal.
It’s not normal because Hunt has a checkered past that affects the situation. Hunt was suspended eight-games in 2019 for shoving and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel while he was still a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs released Hunt after viewing a video of the assault. Hunt was also involved in another incident — a bar fight — in 2018.
And while he’s apparently had no off-field issues while with the Browns, Hunt is coming off a season in which he missed 9 games because of injuries.
So only in Cleveland does a running back with a history for hitting a woman, coming off an injury-plagued year, and in the final year of his contract a contract extension and then thinks his value is high enough as to entice the Browns to make the deal.
But, well, it’s the Cleveland Browns. Odd things are happening.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero