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Browns RB Hillis practices, puts contract issues aside

BEREA, Ohio -- Peyton Hillis is finally putting the focus on football -- and only football.

After a drama-filled start to this season, Cleveland's running back, whose contract situation, strep throat sickness that cost him one game and a hamstring injury that sidelined him for another last week have blanketed the Browns for weeks, said after returning to practice on Wednesday that he's not going to discuss his future with the team again this season.

"I would rather not talk about a contract the rest of the year," Hillis said. "There's no sense in it. It's in the past and I want to move forward from here on out. I've got to play and that's the bottom line."

Hillis practiced for the first time since hurting his hamstring in the first half of Cleveland's loss at Oakland on Oct. 16. The injury was the latest chapter in what has been a weekly soap opera surrounding the tough-nosed back, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards last season and wound up on the cover of the Madden video game.

Wearing an orange Browns baseball cap, Hillis stood near the center of Cleveland's locker room as he has all season and fielded questions. This time, however, there was no talk about his hopes to sign a long-term deal with the Browns. Last week, team president Mike Holmgren said the sides decided to put negotiations on hold and "let Peyton play, let the dust settle a little bit and see what happens."

That's fine with Hillis.

"We've got to move forward from this because you don't need any distractions," he said. "I'm not going to be a distraction. I'm going to help this team win as much as I possibly can and do what I can."

Hillis was limited during practice as the Browns (3-3) began installing their gameplan for Sunday's matchup with the San Francisco 49ers (5-1). Hillis, whose hamstring was heavily wrapped, didn't appear to have any problems running or cutting during the portion of the workout open to media members.

Browns coach Pat Shurmur made it clear that if Hillis is healthy and can play, he will start.

"He's our starting halfback and if he's able to go, he'll be the starter," Shurmur said.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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