Star RB Hillis now questions long-term future with Browns

BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis is beginning to wonder and worry if he has a future with the team after the next 12 games.

Hillis said Monday he doesn't regret sitting out the Browns' Sept. 25 game against the Miami Dolphins with strep throat, a decision -- reached with advice from his agent -- that fueled speculation he missed the game to protest not receiving a contract extension in Cleveland.

Hillis, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards last season, is making $600,000 in the final year of his contract. As for next season, he's beginning to doubt he'll be around.

"Whenever something's not set in stone, then I guess anything is possible, which means your career's not here," he said. "So, yeah, that definitely worries me."

The Browns returned from their bye week with the Hillis matter remaining a hot topic. Following the team's first practice since last Wednesday, Hillis stood in the middle of Cleveland's locker room with his arms folded across his chest for more than 10 minutes answering questions about his contract.

Last week, agent Kennard McGuire told The Associated Press that he cautioned his client not to play against the Dolphins for fear Hillis had been weakened by the illness and could have jeopardized his career by playing and being hurt. Hillis said he considered McGuire's guidance before deciding it was best to sit out.

"It was his recommendation, but it was ultimately my choice in the end," Hillis said. "We both knew how sick I was and how bad it could be for the team and for myself if I had tried to play, so it wasn't just my agent's decision. It was mine also, and he was just looking out for me."

Hillis' absence from the Browns' victory over the Dolphins was followed by an ESPN report, citing unidentified sources, that some unnamed players in Cleveland's locker room believed the running back's contract situation might have been a factor in him skipping the game. Hillis said he wasn't disturbed by the report and that he and McGuire decided to keep the story fresh in the media because he wants to remain a Brown.

McGuire also told The AP that Hillis has been affected by the ongoing contract talks and feels "underappreciated" in Cleveland.

Hillis downplayed being distracted by his uncertain future in Cleveland, but he acknowledged he wishes his contract situation could be resolved.

"You feel unappreciated because you want to get something done and nothing has gotten done at this point," said Hillis, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. "You don't know the ultimate feelings in the end of what's going on up top (in the front office). You take it with a grain of salt and you keep moving on."

Hillis said he doesn't have any bitterness toward Browns coach Pat Shurmur. Hillis also believes team president Mike Holmgren's comment that the Browns were "trying like crazy" to sign him to an extension might have played a role in blowing the negotiations out of proportion.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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