Hillis skips Browns practice with unspecified injury; McCoy sick

His back should be sore. Same goes for his head, shoulders, biceps, forearms, hips, knees, calves and every other part of Peyton Hillis' muscle-bound body.

Carrying the Cleveland Browns hasn't been easy.

Hillis, though, insists he's not hurting.

"I'm fine," he said. "I feel great. It is a long season, and it's tough on your body, but I think my body's holding up well."

You'd like to believe Hillis. After all, he's a straight shooter, never one to exaggerate or make excuses. But the extra workload this season appears to have taken a toll on the 24-year-old workhorse, who missed practice Wednesday to rest a knee injury.

Hillis was seen leaving the Browns' facility with a large ice wrap on his left knee.

Browns quarterback Colt McCoy also missed practice with what was listed as an "illness." Browns coach Eric Mangini typically gives a daily rundown of players scheduled to miss practice. He didn't address McCoy's absence -- or the potential for it.

A team spokesman said the rookie was "not feeling well," but "should be back" Thursday.

McCoy has been a nice surprise for the Browns, but Hillis has been their runaway MVP. There's no one even in the conversation to challenge Cleveland's hard-charging back. He leads the team in rushing and receiving, and among the league's top running backs, he's ranked in the top 5 in points, first downs, receptions, rushing touchdowns and yards from scrimmage.

He has been a workhorse. But maybe an overworked horse.

Hillis has taken the ball 311 times, with 252 rushing attempts and 59 receptions. However, those statistics don't reflect the punishment he has absorbed over 14 games as Cleveland's primary back. He's on the field all the time, rarely getting a break.

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Before this season, he had just 88 career carries and 19 catches in two years with the Denver Broncos.

If Hillis is worn out, it would be understandable.

"I don't get the sense that that's the case," Mangini said. "I'm sure it's totally different for him to have this kind of work, but he's one of the most well-conditioned guys that I've been around. I think he relishes every chance he gets."

On Sunday, Hillis will have his second crack at Baltimore's vaunted defense. He ran for 144 yards and caught seven passes against the Ravens earlier this season, a performance that began his rise to cult status with Browns fans and exposed him to a league that knew little about him.

"I never heard of him before he went for 140," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "He broke a couple of runs. He had a great day on us."

Hillis likely will need another one for the Browns (5-9) to have any shot at upsetting the Ravens (10-4), who can clinch an AFC playoff berth with a win. Hillis has become a marked man, with opposing defenses stacking eight and nine players near the line of scrimmage to stop him.

Baltimore's seven-man front is as good as they come, and Hillis knows he made a lasting impression on the Ravens in their first meeting. They might have underestimated Hillis once. Ray Lewis and crew don't usually make the same mistake twice.

"No one has run the ball on us like that, not to that extent," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I just think he's really good. ... We certainly didn't handle it very well the last time we played."

One of Cleveland's biggest issues -- and the Browns have had a long list of them -- in losing at Buffalo and Cincinnati the past two weeks has been an inability to convert in short-yardage situations.

On their opening drive against the Bills, the Browns ran Hillis all the way down field, but they couldn't score from inside the 5-yard line and had to settle for a field goal. Last week against the Bengals, the Browns couldn't punch it in from close in the fourth quarter and again had to take three points instead of six.

Part of the problem is that teams know what's coming. The Browns have become predictable. If Hillis is in the backfield, he's probably getting the ball.

No excuse, according to Hillis.

"No matter what play it is, we should get one yard," he said. "It doesn't matter what play we run, and we run different plays, we should get that yard."

Refreshingly humble, Hillis never puts himself above his teammates. However, this might be the time to get a little selfish since this week's game will be his last opportunity to impress Pro Bowl voters. Balloting ends next week, and Hillis was asked to calculate his chances.

"Slim to none," he said. "There's a lot of good backs out there that have done just as good or better than I have."

But there might not be one who has meant as much to his team.

Hillis has the bruises to prove it.

Note: The Browns placed tight end Evan Moore on season-ending injured reserve. Moore hasn't played since injuring his hip Dec. 5 at Miami.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith celebrates breaking the all-time career rushing record in a game against the Seattle Seahawks in Irving, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 27. 2002. Smith broke the NFL's career rushing record with an 11-yard run in the fourth quarter. The run gave the 33-year-old Smith 16,728 career yards, passing Walter Payton's mark of 16,726 yards. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)

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