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Ten-Point Stance: Hillis can't run from questions

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
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Where have all those 2010 good times gone, Peyton Hillis? (US Presswire)  
Where have all those 2010 good times gone, Peyton Hillis? (US Presswire)  

It's been a brutal year for Cleveland runner Peyton Hillis in many different ways. Just this past Monday, the highly respected former Browns lineman LeCharles Bentley made a highly critical tweet about Hillis. It typified how Hillis has gone from poster child to pariah in the blink of an eye.

Bentley claimed that Hillis was supposed to make an appearance for a charity Halloween event for kids at a Boys & Girls Club. But according to Bentley, the running back was a no-show. Bentley then tweeted: "Peyton Hillis looking for 10mil guaranteed from Browns and can't show up to kids charity event? #ManPlease."

One of my Twitter friends had the line of the night saying Bentley did attend the event and went as the Madden curse.

Later that night Bentley tweeted: "FYI, I'm a board member at Boys & Girls Club. Great event planned. Just didn't work out. We all can move on." The fact Bentley tweeted that and then later was pretty silent about the whole thing made me wonder if the situation was some sort of misunderstanding more than a blow off.

But this much is definitely true. Hillis is having one of the worst seasons a young player has ever had following a breakout year. Madden curse? This is Curse of Montezuma bad.

Last year Hillis was one of the most popular players in the NFL after running for 1,100 yards and 11 scores. He became, to some, the Larry Csonka of the 21st century. This year, Hillis has 211 yards and two scores. He's been a disaster.

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There have been the injuries, first and foremost. There were also the questions about his toughness raised in an ESPN report earlier this year in which teammates wondered if he was missing a game against Miami because of his contract status. His agent exacerbated the report with comments saying he urged Hillis to sit out the game because Hillis' case of strep throat was so severe.

So where are we now with Hillis?

The true question is trust. A Browns team official said there is no question the team still believes in Hillis, and his injuries and health issues have been real.

But around football there are plenty of questions. There are questions about Hillis' toughness and dedication, even if it isn't fair to have these questions.

Despite the Browns' declarations they have faith in Hillis, I'm hearing there are privately some hesitations, and those hesitations are understandable. The Titans just gave Chris Johnson enough money to cut the U.S. deficit in half and he's morphed into an ordinary back. Runners are the riskiest players to give massive amounts of cash for a variety of reasons.

And here's that question again -- where are we with Hillis?

The Browns will publicly welcome him back with open arms, but privately I think they have the same concerns as others. Where are we ... only Hillis can answer that when he returns.

9. You're starting to hear comments like this more and more across the NFL. This was Phil Simms to journalist Adam Schein on uber-prospect Andrew Luck: "I'm sorry. I just don't see big time NFL throws."

8. One successful thing about the Miami Dolphins' season: the coaches have been able to successfully get Reggie Bush to run hard up the middle. Not just once or twice. But many times. It's been quite the transformation.

7. I continue to get emails from people claiming to be familiar with the business interests of Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver, and they continue to insist a sale of the team is imminent.

6. There's going to be a massive showdown between Congress and the union over HGH. It's only a matter of time before subpoenas are issued and people are hauled before some committee. This battle over HGH testing is going to get ugly before it gets better.

5. A) Champ of the week: Andy Reid. He has basically been called a buffoon by many in the media because of the Eagles' poor start. He demolished the Cowboys and raised his post-bye record to 13-0.

B) Chump of the week: Tim Tebow. He's terrible.

C) Tweet of the week: From TheBillWalton – "ThingsLongerThanKimsMarriage ... Chris Bosh's evening gown."

4. Quietly, very quietly, Ben Roethlisberger is playing some of the best football of his career.

3. The worst coach in football right now isn't winless Tony Sparano or Jim Caldwell. It's Mike Shanahan. His reputation is all but destroyed. Here's why. After 22 games Jim Zorn, Joe Gibbs (in his second stint), and Steve Spurrier were all 10-13. Mike Shanahan is 9-14. Shanahan and his son's coaching of the quarterbacks has been putrid. Shanahan needs to remember the reputation of his owner. Danny Snyder will fire him quick, and not even lose a minute's sleep.

2. People in the sport look at Philip Rivers' throwing motion and believe he's injured. His motion has always been awkward, but one personnel man who has studied film of Rivers this year says it's particularly grotesque and in some shots on film he can be seen wincing.

1. The most embarrassing news from the week -- and the saddest -- is that Mark Brunell is flat broke. He's going to retire following this season and according to a report from a Jacksonville, Fla., television station faces six lawsuits that could put him in a financial hole up to $25 million. Brunell did make some bad investments, but he was also horribly irresponsible with money. In the end he'll be remembered as an outstanding player for the Jaguars who won a lot of games but is now also one of the great cautionary tales.

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