Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Still don’t believe in curses, Cleveland?

Another day, another controversy in the ongoing saga of Madden cover boy Peyton Hillis’ 2011 season with the Cleveland Browns.

Hillis left Friday’s practice after aggravating his injured left hamstring. According to media reports, Hillis took a handoff, ran off right guard, stood straight up and started limping off the field. He then threw the ball and his helmet in frustration.

He walked off the practice field with a trainer.

It’s been one thing after another for Hillis this season, which has been the exact opposite of last season. At this time last year, the Browns and Hillis were getting ready to face the Patriots, a game where Hillis ran for a career-high 184 yards and two TDs in a Browns win.

Now? He’s expected to be out at least a couple of weeks after an MRI this afternoon revealed that he significantly aggravated the muscle.

Not only is Hillis injured, but he’s losing the support of the one group that he needs the most – his teammates.

According to a report at Yahoo Sports, on Wednesday a group of about eight Browns veterans called Hillis into a meeting room for an intervention-style, air-clearing session designed to restore his focus. Supposedly the 25-year-old back’s consuming desire for a new contract has become a locker room distraction and several teammates believe it is holding the team back.

“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.”

We tried to warn you Cleveland.

“The fact that everyone has to get asked about (Hillis’ situation) by the local beat writers every day, it’s started to create a distraction, and it’s a shame that it has to be that way,” said linebacker Scott Fujita. “I’m never gonna be in a position to question a player’s toughness. I just want him to be healthy and in the right frame of mind to help the team. More than anything else, that’s what our conversation with him was about.”

We really did warn you.

“A few guys tried to talk to him, to make him understand the best way to go about things is to put your head down and do the best you possibly can,” tackle Joe Thomas said. “Because if the Browns aren’t going to pay you, some team will break the bank – and either way you need to play hard.”

Oh boy.

Granted, this isn’t good news, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a silver lining or two here.

It’s good to see the veterans on the team taking ownership of the situation and trying to talk to Hillis. That’s a positive sign and shows that team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert have filled the locker room with the right kind of players.

Plus, not to excuse Hillis if he really is pouting, but he’s only 25 and there is a good chance that his actions are at least partially to blame on immaturity.

If he can get healthy and get his head on straight, there shouldn’t be any reason that the Browns can’t count on him.

If not, well there’s a reason why the Browns have two No. 1 picks next season.

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