CLEVELAND -- Fresh off a triumphant prime-time win over a division rival, Kareem Hunt methodically dressed at his locker Monday night. When the time came to speak, Hunt turned and revealed a Joker mask on his face, complete with movable eyebrows and mouth.
The joke was on the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8 after Hunt helped Cleveland to a victory. It's anything but a laughing matter between Hunt and the Browns.
Hunt has been a frequent figure in trade talks as the league's deadline of Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET nears. He's made it clear he's not happy with his role with the Browns, and with less than 24 hours left to find a suitor for Hunt, the running back's stance hasn't changed.
"I mean, I'm down for whatever, man," Hunt said after Cleveland's 32-13 win over Cincinnati. "I'm a football player and this is a business. So I'm ready to do whatever they decide with me. That's either go somewhere else or here, anything it don't matter. I love the game of football."
Once seen and utilized as a perfect complement to star runner Nick Chubb, Hunt has since seen his usage decrease, and his importance diminish. As the Browns have waded through the first eight weeks of the season without a consistent offensive identity, Hunt has been lost in the shuffle. Gone are the days when the Browns would hammer opposing defenses with a healthy helping of Chubb and Hunt. Instead, Chubb has only received 20-plus carries in three games (all victories), while Hunt has drifted into the background.
Hunt saw the future months ago, requesting a trade during training camp. The Browns flatly denied his request, and Hunt has since remained a good employee, showing up for work and giving his full effort while likely wondering when he might again receive substantial opportunities.
Monday night was a productive one for Hunt, perhaps his best showing of the season. The running back and local product carried the ball 11 times for 42 yards and caught four passes for 30 yards, posting his second-best total of scrimmage yards in a game this season. It was a glimpse of the past, a time in which Chubb and Hunt powered the Browns to wins with a relentless attack; against the Bengals, they combined to account for 176 scrimmage yards.
Still, when asked if he felt head coach Kevin Stefanski's staff made it a priority to get Hunt more involved against Cincinnati, Hunt appeared apathetic.
"I mean, I guess so," he said. "We won."
The victory sent Browns fans home happy, but in Cleveland's locker room, the tone was more subdued, especially at Hunt's stall. Statistically, it was positive send-off for Hunt. However, there was no escaping the fact he'd likely be happier elsewhere.
"I mean, you know I'm from the city of Cleveland so (chuckles) I guess I'm happy we won," Hunt said. "So yes, that's the right way to go out."
Hunt made it clear his displeasure has nothing to do with his teammates, whom he said Monday night he loves. He and Chubb share a demonstrated friendship that has allowed their one-two punch to thrive in years past. But be it Cleveland's four-game losing streak (snapped Monday night), or Hunt's diminished role, it just isn't enough for him anymore.
Even more importantly, nothing has changed nearly enough to make Hunt reconsider his request, on which he said he hasn't received an update from the Browns front office.
"I have no idea, I have no idea. I don't talk to them about that," Hunt said. "Like I said, I just come in and work man. If something happens, I guess it happens. I'm always going to show up to work, they know that."
Like Hunt, Stefanski didn't offer much insight on the matter after the game.
"As you can imagine, I don't get into those things," Stefanski said. "He fights like crazy. He's a great part of this team. These guys just, whatever's in front of them, they're fighting like crazy."
Hunt showed up to work Monday night. He very well could have a new place of employment by Tuesday afternoon.