Patrick Daugherty

Football Daily Dose

print article archives RSS

Hillis Ready For Hardball?

Friday, October 07, 2011

Strep throat is not a pleasant experience.

Your entire body aches, you can barely swallow and your energy leveI is somewhere between Marlon Brando after Thanksgiving dinner and Joe West after umpiring a Yankees/Red Sox game. In terms of non-life threatening illnesses, it can be a pretty rotten way to spend six or seven days.

All that being said, it was peculiar when Peyton Hillis didn’t play through his case of it in Week 3. Again, strep throat equals less fun than editing the first draft of a Jose Canseco tweet, but it’s still something a world class athlete making $600,000 would normally be able to play through for three and a half hours.

But therein lies one of the first problems: $600,000. Hillis thinks he’s worth more than that after going for 1,654 yards from scrimmage in 2010, a total that was sixth in the NFL, and ahead of those of Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, to name a few. At the very least, Hillis believes he deserves a longer term commitment than four months from the team he almost single-handedly made watchable in 2010.

So what did he do? Depending on who you ask, he took advantage of unideal circumstances and used his illness to what he thought was his advantage, sitting out in Week 3 in hopes of showing the Browns what they’re missing without him.

What he got instead was talented backup Montario Hardesty doing a fairly decent Hillis impression in his absence, carrying the ball 14 times for 67 yards while adding three more catches for 19 yards in a home win over the hapless Dolphins.

The day helped illustrate a point the Browns appeared to have already realized: a soon-to-be 26-year-old back coming off an out-of-nowhere breakout campaign where he was run into the ground just isn’t all that valuable of an asset, especially with somebody like Hardesty lying in wait.  

So despite everything Hillis has accomplished in the past 14 months — including inexplicably landing on the cover of Madden 2012 — he finds himself back where he was when he first landed in Cleveland: without much leverage, and not an integral part of the team’s future plans.

According to top Browns’ beat writer Tony Grossi, Hillis’ next gambit may be requesting trade ahead of the October 18 deadline. If he does so, he’s going to discover one of two things. 1) The Browns will laugh in his face or 2) The Browns will indulge him, if only so he can see no other team wants to pay him like a star, either.

Does Hillis deserve to be making more than $600,000? Yes. Will he be a competent starting running back for at least the next 2-to-3 seasons? Probably. Is he in any position to play hardball? No.  

It will be interesting to see if he learns that some time in the next 11 days.

Ben Roethlisberger has been a lot of things since entering the NFL in 2004, many of them not good. However, there is one thing almost everyone should be able to agree on: he has the pain tolerance of a Bond villain.

The latest example will come on Sunday, when Roethlisberger plays through a sprained left foot. Playing through a broken right foot in Weeks 13-17 last season, he was able to complete 103-of-169 passes, throwing for 1,375 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception.

In other words, there’s little reason to believe we’ll see a slippage in play from him this weekend, especially with the recently re-signed Max Starks likely to line up as his blindside protector.

Ben dodged a bullet with his latest injury, and Starks’ return lowers the chances he’ll have to dodge another one later on this season.

The news is less encouraging for Roethlisberger’s teammate Rashard Mendenhall, who missed his second straight practice Thursday with an ailing hamstring. Barring a Roethlisberger-like recovery, he will be inactive against the Titans this Sunday, and replaced in the starting lineup by Isaac Redman.

An undrafted free agent out of Bowie State, Redman has been quietly productive through his first 20 career NFL games, averaging 4.8 yards on 74 carries. He’s a more than capable fill-in for Mendenhall in all formats.

Frank Gore (ankle) was limited in 49ers practice for the second straight day Thursday, but it’s obviously not a real concern after Gore was able to go for 127 yards on just 15 carries on the same ankle against the Eagles last weekend. … His teammate Michael Crabtree (foot) was also limited for the second straight day, but like Gore, he’ll be a full-go against the Bucs. … The news is less rosy for Vincent Jackson (hamstring), who missed another practice Thursday. He’s looking very dicey for San Diego’s Week 5 tilt with the Broncos. … Aaron Hernandez (knee) practiced in pads on Thursday for the first time since spraining his MCL in Week 2. If he does so again on Friday, he’ll be a good bet to take the field against the Jets. … Brandon Jacobs’ knee held him out again Thursday. It’s beginning to look like the Giants backfield will be the Ahmad Bradshaw Show in Week 5.

At first glance, the obvious answer here would be the Cowboys. But with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Felix Jones all playing at far less than 100 percent the past few weeks — if they were playing at all — the missed week is likely a blessing in disguise for owners of the Cowboys’ quartet of elite skill players.

With Washington on the other hand, the off week simply leaves fantasy owners with seven more days to ponder the uncertainty taking hold of the Redskins offense.

Was Ryan Torain’s Week 4 domination of the Rams a one off, or sign he’s ready to be a RB2 going forward?

Were Rex Grossman’s back-to-back dismal performances in Weeks 3 and 4 the beginning of the end, or just two small bumps in the road during an improbable comeback campaign?

Was Fred Davis’ second consecutive quiet performance in Week 4 confirmation the hype surrounding him got out of hand?  

We’d love to know the answers to all three questions, but will have to wait until the Redskins take on the Eagles in Week 6 for our next round of clues.

Big game: New England 28, New York 13. The Jets will probably be the first team to slow down Tom Brady and Wes Welker, but even with Nick Mangold back at center, it will be another week of offensive misery for a gang of green who’ve looked like they’ve had gangrene the past few weeks.

Big game II: Green Bay 41, Atlanta 27. Nine months after the Packers dismantled the Falcons in Atlanta in the playoffs, discovering their identity while making the Dirty Birds question theirs, they roll to another fairly easy victory.

Upset of the week: Bears 27, Lions 17. After the Vikings and Cowboys both toyed with sending the upstart Lions to their first loss of 2011, the Bears seal the deal one week after rediscovering their confidence in a wild win over the Panthers.

The I really don’t have a clue but will pretend I do game: Eagles 38, Bills 17. No more screwing around. The Eagles finally click, as the Bills’ second straight tough loss makes them realize they still have a long ways to go.    

Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Patrick Daugherty

Highest Searched Players over the last 7 days

Video Center

    MLB On The Bump: Friday

    MLB On The Bump: Friday

    Beer's MLB 6-Pack: Friday
    Short: MLB Fantasy Mailbag

    Short: MLB Fantasy Mailbag
    Short: Strasburg

    Short: Strasburg's slow start

    Beer's MLB 6-Pack: Wednesday
    MLB On The Bump: Wednesday

    MLB On The Bump: Wednesday

    Beer's MLB 6-Pack: Tuesday
    MLB On The Bump: Tuesday

    MLB On The Bump: Tuesday