Placement on the cover of the popular (but, frankly, increasingly boring and stale) Madden video game franchise supposedly carries with it a curse. I never believed that.
Until this year.
For Browns running back Peyton Hillis, the public vote that gave him the honor over Eagles quarterback Mike Vick apparently has contributed to Hillis having an attitude that he’s worth more money than he really is. And his inability to parlay one good-but-not-great season — he rushed for 1,177 yards after Montario Hardesty was lost for the season — into a major payday has caused Hillis apparently to go a little goofy.
Whispers have emerged of Hillis wanting to be paid like Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams. There’s also talk that Hillis has rejected an offer from the Browns that would have paid him $5 million per year. Hillis has had to deal with the clumsy handling of a case of strep throat that caused him to miss a game, creating the perception that he would have played if he’d gotten a new contract. (It’s didn’t help Hillis that center Alex Mack later played with appendicitis.) Now battling a hamstring injury, Hillis faces suspicion that he’s not really injured.
Complicating matters is the fact that Hillis failed to show up for a Monday event hosted by the Boys and Girls Club, and arranged by former Browns center LeCharles Bentley. Dubbed “Halloween with Hillis,” it was indeed Halloween but there was no Hillis to be seen.
Two days after missing the event, Hillis publicly apologized. “I just want to say I’m sorry about the charity event with the Boys and Girls Club,” Hillis said, via NFL.com. “There was a lot of miscommunication between me and the management that I had, and if I knew the full depths of it, I wouldn’t have missed it.”
In the grand scheme of things, anyone who blinks will have missed the best part of Peyton’s career. The Browns apparently are willing to let him hit the open market in 2012, presumably so that he can see that no one else will pay him anything close to what he wants. Given his recent misadventures and the national hit to his reputation, Hillis could find himself in the Tiki Barber/Clinton Portis category of veteran tailbacks, given that there are so many young, undrafted guys who can get the job done.
Running backs have become more and more fungible in the modern NFL. Curtis Brinkley and Jackie Battle reconfirmed that notion on Monday night for the Chargers and Chiefs, respectively, moving the chains absent the pedigree or, for now, the expectations of getting paid big money. Only a small handful of running backs will ever get it. Hillis, who has only 211 rushing yards this year, simply isn’t one of them.
And that’s fitting. When Hillis finally gets his shot at getting paid, the teams will treat his coming-out party like Halloween without Hillis.