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'Madden' cover boy Hillis prefers real games over video games

The "Madden NFL 12" cover boy isn't much of a gamer.

Peyton Hillis prefers bashing people for real.

"I was never a very big video (game) guy, but it's kind of cool," Hillis said Monday. "I wouldn't say it's one of my hobbies, no."

Already a powerful, punishing force on the field, Hillis is about to burst into living rooms across the country. Your TV might never be the same.

The Cleveland Browns' star running back is gracing the cover of "Madden NFL 12," an immensely popular video game which will be released to the public Tuesday. Hillis passed out advance copies of the game to his grateful teammates, who see his national exposure as a positive for the Browns.

"That's our boy," safety Mike Adams said. "For him to get up there on the cover is great for all of us."

Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards in 2010, an unexpected breakout season for the 25-year-old who arrived from Denver in the trade for quarterback Brady Quinn. Hillis was typically low-key and humble about gracing the cover, which he earned by beating out Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in a nationwide vote of over 16 million fans.

"It's exciting," Hillis said after practice Monday. "I've been very blessed. I'm kind of speechless at times. I'm grateful, but it's time to move on."

Hillis said he's not worried about the so-called "Madden Curse," which is like the "Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx." Players who have been on the "Madden" cover have had a drop in performance the next season or been injured. He's also ignoring outside skeptics who don't believe he can match last season's production.

"I really don't care what people think," Hillis said. "I'm a guy who is going to go out there and do his best, and I'm a guy who has always gone out there and proved people wrong. I'm not worried about it, and I've never been worried about a curse. I'm just going to go out and do my best."

With the Browns' signing of Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas to a seven-year, $84 million contract extension last week, it would figure that Hillis -- entering the final year of a contract that will pay him just $555,000 this season -- would be next in line for a new deal. NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora cited sources in reporting Monday that the Browns are talking to the running back's agent about a new deal, but nothing is close at this point.

Hillis isn't worried about anything but playing football.

"Whenever it is my time and whenever the Browns feel like they want to take care of me, they will," he said. "I'm going to go over here and do my best and prove myself to them because this is a business and you still got to produce every day and every year as much as you can. That's going to be my responsibility and my outlook from here on out."

On Sunday, Hillis showed up with boxes filled with the new "Madden" video game and handed them off in the locker room. He also gave a copy to first-year Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who admitted he's not much of a "gamer" either and has never played "Madden." Shurmur said his teenage son, Kyle, is somewhat of an expert.

"I think he's interested to see what I look like in the game, too," Shurmur joked.

Safety T.J. Ward hasn't had a chance to play the new version of "Madden" yet. But once he's plugged in, Ward said the first thing he'll do is check out his virtual self.

"That's what everyone does," he said. "You check your version first and if that game doesn't have you up to par, you're going to be like, 'Ah, man, this isn't right.' Everyone's goal as a kid is to not only make it to the league, but to be on Madden."

Notes: Ward and safety Usama Young both practiced after being sidelined with hamstring injuries. Adams made it clear after practice that he believes he should start and wishes he received more respect after seven NFL seasons. "I compete every play, day in and day out," he said. "Right now, I'm the starter. That's what it is." ... TE Ben Watson didn't practice and wasn't seen on the field at all. He had a leg issue Sunday. ... Shurmur said the team is "close" to making a decision on guard Eric Steinbach, who has a disk problem in his back. It's possible the team might put him on season-ending injured reserve. Steinbach hasn't missed a snap in two seasons. ... QB Colt McCoy hooked up with rookie WR Greg Little on a long scoring pass in practice. Little took his time getting back, prompting Shurmur to say, "You need a shuttle? Let's go." ... Phil Dawson booted a 62-yard field goal, drawing cheers from his teammates. Before that, Dawson made a 55-yarder that would have been good from 65.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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