Peyton Hillis has had an up-and-down career in the NFL. He showed promise with the Denver Broncos before injuries and attitude problems put him at odds with the coaching staff. That got him traded to the Cleveland Browns, where he enjoyed a breakout season in 2010 and was chosen to grace the cover of EA Sports Madden Football game. He openly campaigned for a big contract in 2011, which hurt his production, and was eventually let go at the end of the year via free agency.
Now, Hillis is with the Kansas City Chiefs, who travel to Cleveland this week in a homecoming for the running back along with quarterback Brady Quinn–who left Cleveland in the trade for Hillis–head coach Romeo Crennel and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Former teammate Joe Thomas was asked on Wednesday about Hillis and his tumultuous exit from the Browns, and the offensive lineman was less than flattering about remembering Hillis in Cleveland.
In short, Thomas accused the running back of creating a “toxic” environment with his open campaigning for a new deal and was routinely more interested in getting paid than gaining yards. Thomas said that Hillis was selfish and acted as a huge distraction all of last season.
Hillis responded on Thursday:
“Joe Thomas, he can have his opinions all he wants. It’s kind of like a crazy ex-girlfriend, you know? It’s been over a year. Get over it. But I don’t know. I guess when you get paid over $100 million by one team, it’s kind of easy to point the finger at another guy and hate on him for trying to get another contract.”
In other words: “Meee-oww.”
The salty back-and-forth will likely add some additional intrigue to the post-game handshakes in Cleveland on Sunday that wouldn’t have been there otherwise as both the Browns (4-8) and Chiefs (2-10) sit at the bottom of their divisions after disappointing seasons.
Hillis has not had the bounce-back year he was hoping for when he signed a one-year deal in Kansas City to be the change of pace back for Jamaal Charles. A high-ankle sprain has sidelined Hillis for several weeks this season and he’s gained just 193 yards this year with one touchdown coming last week.
Despite this catty exchange between bitter ex-teammates, Hillis says he is still looking forward to returning to Cleveland by saying that “it’s going to be a good experience,” that he enjoyed his time there and will enjoy returning to the great fans and atmosphere in Cleveland.
We’ll see if he feels that way after the less-than-friendly welcome he’s sure to receive from those Cleveland fans, who quickly soured on Hillis after rallying behind him in 2010. Many of the Browns faithful likely feels similar to Thomas and will take the opportunity to let Hillis know just how they feel about his dramatic drop-off in production and effort in 2011 on Sunday.