Despite their being a lockout, this has been the offseason of a lifetime for Peyton Hillis. He was the shocking winner in the tournament to determine the cover of Madden '12. He appeared on the David Letterman show to read the top ten. He was in attendence at the NFL Draft to help announce the team's first-round pick, Phil Taylor. He also knows that he is loved by Browns fans around the world.
With all of that in mind, there was one troubling thing about Hillis that I had been thinking about this offseason: the number of fumbles he had last year. He fumbled eight times last year, with five of those being recovered by the opposition. It was really the only blemish on Hillis' stat sheet last year, but it was a biggie. I thought it would be critical for Hillis to work on ball security during the offseason with some form of special training. Not that Tiki Barber carried the ball the same way Hillis did, but if one running back can turn their fumbling woes around, why not Hillis? The lockout led me to believe that nothing was being done to address Hillis' fumbling problems. In an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot, Hillis says otherwise:
Family and friends have also been able to help with the fumbling issue that plagued Hillis last season. After leading all running backs with eight fumbles in 2010 and tying for third among all NFL players with five lost, Hillis knew he had to take some drastic measures in the off-season.
"I'll carry a ball around with me all day and ask people to try to knock it out of my hand when I least expect it," he said. "I'll give them some money and stuff so people get pretty geeked up about that. It just helps me to take care of the ball without even thinking about it."
So has it cost him an arm and a leg?
"Sometimes they'll get it out, but most of the time they don't."
If I see Hillis in the grocery store with a football tucked in his arm, I'll be sure to try to poke it out.
Adding to how much of a beast he is, Hillis also noted that he often straps a half-ton truck to his waist and drags it around. No wonder the guy carries those puny defenders on his back so easily when he's plowing forward.