The epitome of a blue-collar country boy, he has been right at home in the hard-working city of Cleveland, Ohio the past two seasons. Yet for some reason, fans and media of the city have been especially critical as of late.
The drama and speculation began with contract negotiations between Hillis and the Browns this season, and has only continued to spiral downward.
When Hillis' new agent Kennard McGuire advised him to sit out the Week 3 matchup with strep throat, it further added to fan and media criticism, claiming that it was a negotiating move.
“The sad part about it is, I’m ashamed that anybody would think that I would never play if I didn’t think I could benefit the team,” he said. “I’ve never been that kind of guy. I’ve always been a guy to wear my emotions on my sleeve and go out there and do the best I can. Treat every day like it's my last day and I treat every play like it’s my last play."
Between Hillis' decreased role in the offense from last season, the lack of fan support, the media criticism and the discouraging contract negotiations, it looks like Hillis may be on a one-way trip out of Cleveland.
Remember former Browns first-round pick Braylon Edwards? His attitude started out alright enough, launching him to Pro-Bowl heights, but as soon as fans and media got on him about his drops and Michigan alumni status, his attitude drastically changed.
His discontent grew, and it was a matter of time before Edwards was sent packing. Despite his drops, Edwards demanded double-team coverage and was the constant deep threat that the Browns have been looking for ever since.
The same fate could be in store for Hillis. With Browns' beat writer Tony Grossi predicting that Hillis will ask for a trade before the October 18th deadline, it's growing more and more likely.
While he may be a fan favorite, there has been no "Pay The Man" campaigns by the fans like there were for kick returner Josh Cribbs, there has only been fan accusations.
If Cleveland hopes to keep their hard-nosed, downhill running back phenom, they need to step up and show their support.
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