Sorry Browns fans, Peyton Hillis hasn't come to his senses yet, but it is funny or perhaps interesting how history sometimes has a way of repeating itself.
A little over thirty years ago, another gritty plow-horse running back by the name of John Riggins decided to leave the Washington Redskins training camp amidst a contract dispute, only to return eleven months later after making the aforementioned epiphany.
Thirty years later, Hillis emerged as one league's better feel-good stories after arriving by trade from Denver. This year though, he's a locker-room pariah, dealing with his own contract situation as Yahoo Sports Michael Silver reported this week:
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” says one Browns veteran. “Last year, Peyton was such a positive, inspirational force on our team – but now he’s like a different guy. It’s like he’s in a funk that he can’t get out of, and it’s killing us, because we really need him. And we’ve told him that. But we’re at the point where we just don’t know what to do.”
For all parties involved, the situation seemed to finally reach critical mass this week, yet before everyone runs Hillis out of town, haven't the Browns and another star player been here before?
Josh Cribbs, not too long ago, faced a similar situation and offered a voice of reason in explaining to Michael Silver his advice for Hillis:
“I gave him the same advice [Hall of Fame running back and Browns legend] Jim Brown gave me: ‘Just play, and you’ll get what you deserve,’” Cribbs said Thursday. “Our advice to him is to do what he does best. Just play. He’s been forthcoming, letting guys know what’s going on. He already proved himself [last year]. I feel for him. [Now] he has a chip on his shoulder, so he’s more apt to prove himself.”
Where things net out is largely dependent on Hillis, yet he's not doing himself any favors getting injured once again this week. Thirty years ago, at least John Riggins had several solid seasons under his belt before taking a stand against the Redskins. By comparison, Hillis has had one decent season and a video game cover to his credit. It's a promising start, but not necessarily enough for the Browns front office to sign him to a long-term deal.
At the same time, the Browns are currently 3-4, but are staring up at the usual suspects from the bottom of the division and would seem unlikely candidates to turn things around without a fully functioning Hillis, especially given the lacklustre play of substitutes Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya.
If Hillis plans on getting paid next season, whether it's with the Browns or someone else, he's going to need to make an effort this season in Cleveland. Unfortunately, Hillis picked the wrong fight at a bad time to be a running back in the NFL, given how most teams currently view the position as an interchangeable/expendable one that can be capably filled by anyone with a quick step, dependable hands and adequate line support.
Hillis has the potential to be a star in this league, but hopefully realizes the odds are not in his favor before it's too late, takes Josh Cribbs advice to heart and follows in John Riggins footsteps.