Eschewed from the Denver Broncos before his talents were ever identified by Josh McDaniels, Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis is better off. There's no doubt about that.
(Not even before the completion of the 2010-11 season, Hillis's former coach, and Bill Belichick understudy, had been fired from his head coaching position and hired by the St. Louis Rams as an offensive coordinator. Talk about karma.)
Hillis's breakout season was none more apparent than when the Browns faced the Patriots in Week 8, a 34-14 win in which he bulldozed his way to a career-high 184 yards. His team would go on to win only five games this year. But while the Browns continued to disappoint their fan base, Hillis provided a glimmer of pride to the despondent franchise. He finished the year with 1,177 rushing yards, 61 catches for 477 yards and 13 total touchdowns. No Cleveland Brown has created more excitement for the franchise since Brady Quinn was drafted. (Yup, the same guy he was traded for.)
So when it comes to Hillis, there's a lot to talk about. Like, whether or not he can keep it going. Whether or not he can put the franchise on his back. If he hates McDaniels. And for those of us nationally, who barely know him, who exactly he is.
In an interview with Dan Patrick, Hillis dropped a whopper on us after being asked if he understood the whole "novelty of being a white running back." Unfortunately, it harkens back to a week ago with all of the trash talk going on between the Patriots and New York Jets. One wonders whether there is a fine line about what is and isn't acceptable. I'm going to assume that everybody believes the following is unacceptable.
“Yes sir. Well you know since the season is over I haven’t heard too much about it, but you know during the season people would come to me and tell me how exciting it was to see that. It made me happy to know that first and foremost the good lord put me in the position to do it. Secondly, that I could give people hope. Just having that and hearing peoples mind and what they really think is huge to me.”
Dan Patrick: You face a lot of grief and trash-talking in the NFL. What do the players say to you on teams like the New York Jets? Pittsburgh Steelers?
“Yes every team did. You know they’ll say 'You white boy you ain’t gonna run on us today. This is ridiculous why are you giving offensive lineman the ball?' You know all kinds of stuff like that you hear on the field, but I use that to my advantage. I kind of soaked it in, ate it up a little bit because I enjoyed it.”
I'm all for friendly jabber. Even some unfriendly jabber. But this kind of stuff makes me sick.
Forget the fact that Dan Patrick asked the question. (It's a good question.) Forget the fact that he is the only starting white running back in the league. Forget the fact that we were having this conversation about black quarterbacks only a generation ago. This is just stupid. Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. And I'd go as far as saying he's tops in the league for stiff-arms too. That's all that should matter. However, despite this, he's gotta go to work and deal with being the white running back. I didn't even know that was a label in the NFL. Somebody hide Danny Woodhead.
Maybe Bart Scott's comment about "ending" Wes Welker's career did do some good. With the league telling player's to cool off the rhetoric, it'll hopefully bring the spotlight onto some of the more outrageous things that are actually being said. And if the quips Hillis has received doesn't rank up there, I don't know what does.
The main contributors to The Buzz are:
- Steve Silva, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Gary Dzen, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Zuri Berry, Boston.com sports producer