Posted by Josh Katzowitz
The Peyton Hillis saga in Cleveland is getting rather sticky.
The running back, as you probably remember, missed Week 3 because of strep throat, but reports soon surfaced that speculated that Hillis actually didn’t play as a protest because of a contract dispute.
Although the Browns apparently are working hard to sign Hillis, he’s still playing for $600,000 this year, and obviously, he feels that’s not enough (after what he accomplished last year, he makes a good point). And to make matters a little more sketchy, his agent cautioned him not to perform if he wasn’t 100 percent, fearing it would hurt his career and his potential free agent value.
“I would give him the same advice to him or any of my clients as if he were my son,” Kennard McGuire told the Associated Press (H/T to PFT). “"The game is physical enough, and the way Peyton plays the game, he needs all the elements of his physical game. Him being sick, and the level of his sickness, is the equivalent of being injured.
"Not only could he have hurt himself but he could have hurt his team. Nobody embodies Cleveland like Peyton Hillis. If anyone wants to point a finger, point it at me."
So, when Hillis returned to action in Week 4 in a 31-13 loss to the Titans, he only received 10 carries. Which meant we could ask coach Pat Shurmur if he was mad at Hillis and we could ask Hillis if he felt like the Browns were trying to devalue his worth by keeping his stats artificially low.
Said Hillis: "Take it up with the coach. I'm just running the plays that he tells me to do. I'm just riding the tide and waiting my chances and opportunities and trying to get things done when I can."
Then, on Thursday night, he tweeted this: “if I could have physically played against the Dolphins I would have. I love this city and hope to retire here.”
Said Shurmur: “It's a non-issue."
Yet, obviously it is an issue and probably will continue to be an issue until Hillis gets a new deal or leaves for somewhere else (this is the final year of his rookie contract). So, what does it all mean? The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Tony Grossi explains:
“I think the coach is somewhat frustrated by all the attention the issue has received. I think Shurmur did believe Hillis was sick. I think Shurmur's play-calling and use of Montario Hardesty is not about "punishing" Hillis or trying to hype up the value of Hardesty. I think Shurmur simply called a bad game when it came to handling his running backs.”
Maybe so, but this issue might not be settled for a while, particularly if, as Grossi says, that Hillis’ next step could be to demand a trade. And it very well could get even uglier, especially if Hillis continues to listen to McGuire’s advice. But considering Hillis is on his third agent in four months (!), there’s a pretty good chance Hillis’ next representative might have a completely different tone anyway.
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