Shurmur: Hillis not benched by Browns or on trading block

BEREA, Ohio -- No matter the coast or the opponent, Peyton Hillis can't seem to outrun the drama.

The Cleveland Browns running back, who since the season started has been involved in controversies surrounding contract negotiations with the Browns and his decision to sit out a game with strep throat, is again at the center of a mini-mystery surrounding an injury he sustained in Sunday's game at Oakland.

Hillis is nursing a strained left hamstring, an injury Browns coach Pat Shurmur said happened on a carry during the first quarter of the 24-17 loss to the Raiders. An MRI exam taken Monday confirmed Hillis' injury, and Shurmur said it's too early to say he'll miss this week's game against Seattle.

"Those injuries can take a couple of days or they can take however long," Shurmur said. "But it's a hamstring injury."

OK, that much is clear.

But here's where it gets a tad bit confusing.

The Brownsdid not announce Hillis' injury until late during the third quarter Sunday, leading to speculation Shurmur was benching his player. As Hillis stood on the sideline holding his helmet, TV commentators wondered why he wasn't in the game given the Browns were within striking distance and had planned to feature him against the Raiders.

So, coach, was Hillis hurt?

"That's an easy one," Shurmur said Monday during his news conference: "You can be assured that he had a hamstring injury. That you can be assured."

Later, in an attempt to clarify any vagaries surrounding Hillis' injury, Shurmur unintentionally added new elements of uncertainty.

After Hillis got hurt, Shurmur said he was told by Cleveland's trainers the bruising back was "only to be used in emergencies." And, Shurmur implied that Hillis, who returned to the game for two plays during the fourth quarter to help with pass protection, did so without permission.

"He just kind of ran back in there," Shurmur said. "We knew that he was injured and he was just as a last resort he had to go in and play."

Hillis came back in to replace second-year back Montario Hardesty, who struggled with his blocking and nearly got quarterback Colt McCoy hurt on a blindside blitz.

Shurmur later backtracked on his comments regarding Hillis' unexpected return, saying he was sent into the game by Cleveland's coaches.

"We were aware he went back on the field to pass protect," Shurmur said. "He didn't go out there on his own."

Shurmur said he was unaware of the long delay between Hillis getting hurt and it being announced by the Browns' public relations staff. At one point, reporters were told Hillis was not hurt.

"In the heat of the game, the last thing I'm thinking about is letting the press box know," he said. "I don't think there was anything to try to keep it from somebody."

There's no telling what may happen next, but Shurmur insisted the Browns are not shopping Hillis before Tuesday's 4 p.m. trading deadline.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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