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Browns RB Hillis injures thigh during Thursday's practice

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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The Cleveland Browns added running back Peyton Hillis to their injury report Thursday with an unspecified thigh ailment.

Hillis, who has rushed for more than 100 yards each of the past two weeks, had limited participation in Thursday's practice. Hillis apparently was hurt following the 30 minutes of practice that's open to reporters.

Hillis has been the Browns' top offensive player through four weeks. He rushed for a career-high 144 yards two weeks ago against the Baltimore Ravens and followed that by running for 102 to help Cleveland record its first win this season, 23-20 over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hillis wasn't listed on the Browns' injury report Wednesday.

The Browns acquired Hillis in a March trade with the Denver Broncos, who have faced recent criticism for making the deal, given the state of the team's ground game.

Twenty-three NFL running backs, including Hillis (322 yards and four touchdowns), have run for more yards than Denver's 220 this season. Hillis' two 100-yard games are as many as Broncos running backs have managed in 20 games under coach Josh McDaniels.

Hillis also leads the league by being 5 for 5 in third-and-short conversions, an area in which the Broncos have experienced trouble since McDaniels made oft-injured Knowshon Moreno his first-ever draft pick last year.

So, was the answer to the Broncos' running woes right under their noses all along? Not a chance, insists McDaniels, who won't look back with regret over sending Hillis to the Browns for quarterback Brady Quinn, who isn't starting.

"We've talked a lot about that," McDaniels said Thursday. "Again, Peyton was a good person, a good player, and he's in another place right now, and, you know, whether he would be effective here or not, that would be speculation on our part and everybody else's. And I wish him the best, but we've got to focus on what we've got here."

For his part, Hillis has Denver in his rearview mirror. He said Thursday that he hopes McDaniels doesn't keep being bashed for trading the running back to the Browns.

"They're 2-2. I love being a Cleveland Brown," Hillis said. "Hopefully, he doesn't take too much heat, because he's a good coach, and he's doing a great job for that organization."

Hillis quickly fell out of favor with McDaniels last year, carrying just 13 times for 54 yards and one TD. But Hillis energized the Broncos in 2008 when he emerged during an injury epidemic among the team's tailbacks and ran for a team-high 343 yards and scored six touchdowns before tearing his right hamstring during a December game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Broncos sorely missed Hillis' toughness and production as they lost their last three games that season to miss the playoffs, leading to the coaching change and a new career path for the running back.

Hillis' rugged running style that gave Denver's struggling offense a nasty aura in '08 also earned him legions of fans who were befuddled by his lack of carries last season when McDaniels ignored him in short-yardage situations, even after then-rookie Knowshon Moreno kept coming up short.

McDaniels told Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan in Denver last week that although the Broncos believed Hillis could be successful in the NFL, "I think ultimately it wasn't a great fit."

McDaniels believes in spreading the ball to a bevy of backs, so nobody will be given 25 carries per game in his offense like Hillis receives in Cleveland, where injuries have forced him into a more prominent role.

"I think he's found a place that's maybe a better fit for him," McDaniels told the radio station. "Our offense wasn't really centered around that type of style."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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