Peyton Hillis' season of ugly has gotten uglier.
By Wednesday, a group of about eight Browns veterans had summoned Hillis into a meeting room for an intervention-style, air-clearing session designed to restore his focus. After a breakout season in 2010 that vaulted him to national prominence, including a spot on the "Madden NFL ’12" cover, the 25-year-old back’s consuming desire for a new contract has become a locker room distraction that numerous teammates regard as an impediment to cohesion and collective success.
An unnamed player goes even further in describing what Hillis has been like this season:
"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."
Other players were willing to go on the record, after the jump.
Joe Thomas weighed in:
"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," said All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas(notes), the team’s best and highest-paid player. "Because if the Browns aren’t going to pay you, some team will break the bank – and either way you need to play hard.
"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. 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."
Later on in the article Silver mentions that the talks were mostly positive, and some Browns players don't think the front office and coaching staff have done enough publicly to back up Hillis. Some also didn't like some of the verbiage used by the front office when it came to talking about Hillis' contract situation with the press. Later, an unnamed player came to the defense of the front office:
"The organization is not going to reward a guy they think is moping or acting out or going about it the wrong way, just out of principle, and because of the message it sends to younger guys. And I totally understand that."
The whole situation sucks. Hillis looked like a star in the making. Our star. Our guy on the cover of Madden. Our guy being interviewed on all the NFL shows.
Then, 2011 happened. I'm hoping that the two sides can get this figured out ASAP (even though his hamstring injury puts a damper on things), but if I was a betting man, and I am, I think that Hillis as the Browns lead Running Back is a thing of the past.
Any further news, we will update. hat tip to Shep615 for the FanPost.