Sunday afternoon in Cleveland there will be a handful of former Browns taking the field for the Kansas City Chiefs, including Romeo Crennel who was the head coach there from 2005-08. There’s also Chiefs starting QB Brady Quinn and DL Shaun Smith, who would like to stick it to their former team.
None of the former Browns now in Kansas City had much to say this week… with the very big exception of RB Peyton Hillis.
Hillis burst onto the scene in Cleveland (after being traded for Quinn, oddly enough) in 2010 with 1,177 yards on 270 carries, including 11 touchdowns. His encore performance, however, left much to be desired.
In 2011, while haggling over a new contract, Hillis averaged just 3.6 yards a carry and found the end zone just three times. He also missed six games with injuries that were questionable to his teammates. The ugly second season in Cleveland allowed him to hit the free agent market and land with the Chiefs this summer.
Now with Hillis ready to make his return to Cleveland, Browns LT Joe Thomas made it clear how he feels about the guy he used to block for.
“I think it was better for both sides [that he left],” Thomas told reporters this week. “At that point, the situation with him here was toxic. He didn’t want to be here and players didn’t want him here and it’s better just for a fresh start at that point.”
It was those questionable injuries Thomas seems to have the biggest issue with.
“You guys tell me — you think strep throat and I don’t know whatever else injuries he had [a pulled hamstring] should keep you out of an NFL game? Or several? All I know is [center] Alex Mack had appendicitis. His appendix blew up, and he played.”
Like a tiny cornerback trying to take him down in the open field (if he ever found his way to open field) Hillis took took the criticism head on.
“It’s kind of like a crazy ex-girlfriend,” Hillis said. “It’s been over a year. Get over it. I guess when you get paid over $100 million dollars by one team, it’s kind of easy to point the finger at other guys and try to hate on them for trying to get another contract.”
Interestingly, Hillis seems to confirm Thomas’ accusations that he sat out games with minor injuries because he was worried about getting a contract in the offseason.
He will no doubt be welcomed back to Cleveland with a chorus of boos, though with the season he has going on right now, Browns fans should cheer any time Chiefs offensive coordinator Brian Daboll calls Hillis’ number.
In what are sure to be his final games with the Chiefs, Hillis will need a huge turn around if he has any hopes of surpassing his terrible 2011. In nine games, the running back has carried the ball just 59 times for 193 yards and a career-worst 3.3 average.