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Hillis' profile higher than ever, but work ethic remains same

Peyton Hillis is the new "Madden NFL 12" cover boy, but he's not letting that notoriety affect his work ethic.

The Cleveland Browns' rugged running back has been busy enhancing his skill set during the NFL lockout, training in his own distinct way in his hometown of Conway, Ark. Hillis has been seen around the neighborhood powering down the street with a half-ton truck harnessed to his chest. On lighter days, he drags a small car or all-terrain vehicle.

"I know it's weird, but if you saw it, you can see it works," Hillis told *The Plain Dealer* in Saturday's edition. "It's just something a buddy of mine came up with, and I've been doing it since my junior year in high school."

Hillis went from being a relative unknown to one of the most talked-about players in the NFL during a 2010 season in which he totaled 1,177 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, despite playing the last three weeks with a painful cracked rib that made breathing a chore.

Hillis, like every other NFL player this offseason, is in the unique position of preparing for a new season without the structure that the league provides. Hillis is doing his best to create a positive support system.

"I have coaches from Conway High working me out and all kinds of local fitness experts," he said. "I'm doing yoga, MMA and things like that. I'm an unorthodox player, so I have to do things that fit my kind of game."

The biggest flaw in Hillis' game last season was ball security, and like other aspects of his training this offseason, the 25-year-old has taken a straightforward approach.

"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."

Looking ahead to the 2011 season, Hillis is excited to be part of a West Coast offense under new coach Pat Shurmur and welcomes a potential challenge for the starting job in the form of Montario Hardesty, who's set to return to action after reconstructive knee surgery.

"I always find competition in each and every thing I do, and it will bring competition -- no doubt about it," Hillis said. "But being professional and being who I am, I like competition. I like a good challenge, and I'm always up for anything."

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