That nightmare continued Thursday night.
The 27-year-old Hillis, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last month after rushing for 309 yards last year with the Kansas City Chiefs, left in the third quarter of Tampa Bay's loss to the Baltimore Ravens with a knee injury, according to Dan Hanzus of NFL.com.
Hillis also fumbled on the play after taking a helmet to the knee, an unceremonious end to a Buccaneers debut that started in relatively promising fashion.
Update: Friday, Aug. 9, 11:45 AM
According to Bucs insider Jenna Laine, Hillis shouldn't be out long:
UPDATE: Peyton Hillis' diagnosis is a hyperextended knee. Not expected to miss significant time. Good news http://t.co/h50Rbloza3— JennaLaineBucs (@JennaLaineBucs) August 9, 2013
-- End of Update --
And that's the rub with Hillis. Since that 2010 season, Hillis groused his way right out of Cleveland and hasn't sniffed a 1,000-yard season, largely due to an inability to stay healthy.
Hillis showed with a 101-yard effort in Week 16 last year against the Indianapolis Colts that he still has something left in the tank, and the sixth-year veteran recently told the Associated Press via Fox News that he viewed his signing with Tampa Bay was a chance to get his career going again.
I'm here, trying to do the best that I can. I've been humbled over the past couple of years, and I'm just happy to be in a place they want me to be and a place where I can try to produce again.
Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano also had positive things to say about Hillis after his arrival in Florida.
I liked the way he played. We felt like he was a good fit for us right now with our running back and fullback situation. He's a guy who brings some versatility to the position. He can be the ball carrier, I think he can block. He's a bigger back.
There seemed to be a real opportunity for Hillis with the Buccaneers. The backfield situation behind starter Doug Martin is very fluid right now, and as Schiano mentioned, Hillis is capable of playing both tailback and fullback.
However, when the Buccaneers released their first depth chart last week, Hillis was listed fourth, behind Martin, Brian Leonard and Mike James. That would appear to indicate precious little margin for error if Hillis wants to make the team, and he can't make a positive impression on coaches from the trainer's table.
Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports passed along preliminary word that the injury wasn't thought to be serious.
No major alarms on Bucs RB Peyton Hillis after a scare tonight when he took a shot to the leg. Belief is it's just a bruise.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 9, 2013
However, Stephen Holder of the Tampa Bay Times wasn't optimistic after the game.
Can't speculate on severity, but Peyton Hillis had a nasty limp in the locker rm after the game. Spent much time with the trainers.— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) August 9, 2013
If Hillis can get back on the field soon, there's still plenty of time for him to make the 53-man roster. But a serious injury would probably end Hillis' tenure in Tampa Bay before it ever gets going.
And so we'll wait for the results of a sure-to-be-coming MRI, an exam that will tell the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Peyton Hillis whether his nightmare goes on.