BEREA - Peyton Hillis must be wondering what type of spell he is under this season.
The Browns running back re-injured his hamstring during Friday's practice. Hillis threw the ball in disgust and then tossed his helmet to the ground.
Hillis, who missed the last two games, probably won't play Sunday in Houston against the Texans.
The Associated Press
Browns running back Peyton Hillis re-injured his hamstring in practice on?Friday.
The latest twist in Hillis' strange season comes on the day Yahoosports.com reported friction between Hillis and some of his teammates. The players were reportedly upset that Hillis threw passes with backup Thad Lewis from midfield to the crossbar before last Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Only in Cleveland can what appears to be a legitimate hamstring injury suffered by running back Peyton Hillis be turned into a controversy. If you believe conspiracy theories, Hillis isn't hurting bad enough to keep him off the field.
The thought is that Hillis wants a contract extension. By not playing he reduces the risk for further damage, which could hinder his chances of signing a new deal.
The fact is that hamstring injuries happen all the time in the NFL. It's not unusual for players to miss multiple weeks. Just ask Texans star running back Arian Foster, who was inactive twice early this season with hamstring problems. Texans receiver Andre Johnson has missed four straight games and perhaps a fifth with a hamstring injury.
"They're extremely tough," Foster said. "They're not an injury you can push through. You have to let it heal 100 percent. The more you push it, the worse you get. It's worse for a football player because you're taught to push through things. With a hamstring you have to let it heal by itself."
Further complicating Hillis' situation is that hamstring injuries aren't considered serious to the average fan. Injured players don't walk around on crutches or wear a walking boot.
"It's a tough injury because it's not visible and everything appears fine on the outside," Foster said. "It's not a serious injury, so nobody really feels sorry for you. Everybody wants you to get back as fast as possible, so there's a lot of negativity. That's the NFL. It comes with the territory. There's a lot of scrutiny."
Hillis has never reached his stride this season. He was healthy for just the first two games. He missed a week three game against the Miami Dolphins with strep throat. He played the next week against the Tennessee Titans, but pulled the hamstring two week later against the Oakland Raiders.
Coming off a season in which he rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns, Hillis has 60 carries for 211 yards and two TDs.
The story is different for Foster, who's just now starting to round into shape. He has 135 carries for 532 yards and four touchdowns for the 5-3 Texans.
While the Browns' defense has played the pass well, the same can't be said about dealing with opposing ground games. The Browns have improved in that area but are ranked 14th with an average yield of 127.3 yards a game.
The Texans present a unique dilemma. Coach Gary Kubiak is from the Mike Shanahan school of zone run blocking in which linemen cut block. Shanahan had success using that tactic during his days with the Denver Broncos, which allowed running back Terrell Davis to have a successful but short-lived career.
Last week the Browns had to worry about Frank Gore. The week before that it was Darren McFadden, and before that it was the Titans' Chris Johnson.
"I feel like we have this conversation every week," Browns linebacker Scott Fujita said. "Every week we have a new beast at the running back position. Their offensive line is playing really well. This offense in particular is really demanding. It's tough. It makes the whole defense run sideline to sideline.
"Playing against those Shanahan-coached teams in Denver for years and years, they seem to have running backs that run for 1,200, 1,300, 1,400 yards every single year. It's just kind of this way the offense is run. This back is extremely explosive. He's one of those one-cut, quick-hit-type guys, so it's tough."
The Texans' offensive line has been criticized by the last two opponents - the Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. Cut blocking, while legal, isn't appreciated by defensive linemen and linebackers because of the potential for knee injuries.
"It's a tough deal for defensive linemen and linebackers both," Fujita said. "These guys do such a good job with that big stretch zone blocking scheme, climbing up to the second level and cutting down everybody. That's the way this offense has always been. I think Alex Gibbs was one of the first offensive line coaches to really teach that, and they do such a good job of that."