Wake-up call: Hard to criticize Hillis

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
8:00
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Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

Browns running back Peyton Hillis defended his decision not to play with strep throat after postgame show analysts questioned him sitting out.

"The people that really care about me, and want the best for me would understand," Hillis said, via The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "And the people that don't, then they don't. But I can't control that. And I'm going to do what's best for me at that point. If it's going to jeopardize my health in that situation, I'm going to take my own career and my own life in my own hands and do the best I can."

Durability has been a hot topic with Hillis since injuries reduced his playing time in the final month of last season. According to Hillis, his illness and high fever caused him to lose 10 to 12 pounds by Sunday's game against Miami.

"My energy wasn't there," Hillis said. "I knew it wasn't my time that day. Me and the doctors talked it over and they probably didn't think it was the best thing to go out there."

Hensley's slant: It's difficult to criticize Hillis for his decision. This wasn't about his contract. This was about his health. If he lost 10 pounds due to the illness, there really wasn't a decision to make. It's strange to hear the "soft" label applied to Hillis after watching the number of tackles he breaks.

BENGALS: Wide receiver Jerome Simpson is expected to start a week after a drug bust at his home, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Talking for the first time since the incident, Simpson answered one question before leaving, saying, "Practice is going good. Glad I get to prepare for the Buffalo Bills. God bless. Keep the faith. I'm done [with this interview]." Hensley's slant: The Bengals will have to get more than the one catch that Simpson provided last Sunday in order to keep pace with the high-scoring Buffalo Bills. Simpson is averaging a team-best 20.7 yards-per-catch (the next closest on the team is 12.9), and the Bengals desperately need big plays to jump-start the offense.

RAVENS: The Ravens have been practicing "the Suggs Package," where linebacker Terrell Suggs lines up as a fullback on offense. Suggs is the one who suggested this to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. “What I do know is that Cam is working me in on offense, getting some fullback -- a little something to just try to get the ball in my hands," Suggs said, via The Baltimore Sun. "Like King James [the nickname for Miami Heat forward LeBron James], you get the ball in my hands, good things happen -- with the exception of the [NBA] Finals. It’s cool. We’re working on something.” Hensley's slant: It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. The Ravens were criticized just last season when Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata injured his knee when running a pass pattern on fourth-and-goal. Baltimore can't afford to lose Suggs, who is having a Defensive Player of the Year-type season.

STEELERS: Antonio Brown said he's confident about breaking a long return against the Texans, although he wouldn't tell the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review why he's feeling this way. "Some teams give you better shots than others," Brown told the paper. Hensley's slant: Brown was close to breaking two punt returns in the fourth quarter last Sunday. He seems to come up big in pressure situations (like the 58-yard catch late in the AFC divisional playoff game against Baltimore), so expect the long return to happen in a pivotal part of the game.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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