Friday’s one-liners included a reference to the fact that Browns running back Peyton Hillis believes in curses, given his struggles (self-imposed and otherwise) after landing on the cover of the Madden game.
The bigger question is whether Hillis will remain with the team in 2012, when his image surely won’t appear anywhere near the front cover, the back cover, or any other promotional materials associated with the only NFL-licensed console-based video game.
“I would love to come back here,” Hillis said, via Stephanie Storm of the Akron Beacon Journal. “I’m a Cleveland Brown at heart. Since I’ve been here, I fell in love with the fans, the city and the people that live here. They’ve been nothing but 100 percent supportive through everything when I talk to ’em. It’s good to have a second family backing [you] like that.”
Whether Browns management remains a member of Peyton’s first or second or third or any family remains unknown. Coach Pat Shurmur, while acknowledging that a 112-yard effort from Hillis against the Ravens was “the Peyton I think everybody here is used to seeing,” wouldn’t say whether the team plans to keep Hillis.
Look for Hillis to hit the open market in March, unencumbered by the franchise tag or any other restriction. Then, the question will be whether any other team will offer him the kind of money he wants — and whether the Browns would offer anything close to what any other team may offer Hillis.
Given the veteran market at tailback, which has become the most fungible position on the field other than long snapper, holder, punter, and kicker, his best bet may be to take a one-year deal and try again in 2012 to prove that he deserves more financial security for 2013 and beyond. And if that’s how it turns out, he can blame it on the Madden curse.