Wake-up call: Hillis unsure about future

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
8:30
AM ET
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

Running back Peyton Hillis said it "definitely worries" him that he might not be able to fulfill his goal of retiring as a Brown.

Hillis, who is playing the final year of his contract, has been unable to strike a new deal with Cleveland.

"You feel unappreciated because you want to get something done and nothing has gotten done at this point," Hillis told reporters via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "As far as that goes, you don't know the ultimate feelings in the end of what's going on up top. You take it with a grain of salt and you keep moving on."

Hillis' contract situation has become a major issue with the Browns. After he missed the Week 3 game against Miami with strep throat, there was a report that Browns players questioned whether Hillis was protesting the lack of a new contract.

Hillis acknowledged that he probably would've suited up against the Dolphins if his agent hadn't advised against it.

"He was just looking out for me," Hillis said. "That's what he's there for, so I have to give him thanks, too. Because I'm stubborn and hardheaded and I like to go out there and play even though I was probably not up for it."

Meanwhile, defensive lineman Marcus Benard suffered a broken hand resulting from a motorcycle accident Monday. He is expected to make a full recovery.

Hensley's slant: Another day, another chapter in "Sick-gate." I can't remember ever hearing more about one player missing one game. This is obviously a distraction to Hillis if he is publicly voicing concern over his future in Cleveland. Like I've repeatedly said, the best way to make this a non-issue during the season is to table talks until the offseason. This has been the biggest negative in an otherwise solid start for the Browns.
  • BENGALS: According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, head coach Marvin Lewis isn't ready to celebrate the team's 3-2 start, saying consistency needs to improve in every phase. The biggest issue coming from the win at Jacksonville is the running game. Cedric Benson gained a season-low 53 yards on his second-most carries (24) this season. Hensley's slant: The Bengals rank 24th in the NFL in yards per carry (4.0), and they can't afford inconsistency there knowing the ups-and-downs that come with starting a rookie quarterback. There will be more concern over the running game if Cincinnati can't pound the ball Sunday against the Colts, who have the second-worst run defense in the league.
  • RAVENS: Cornerback Jimmy Smith, the team's first-round draft pick, acknowledged that he's unlikely to play Sunday because of a high ankle sprain, and left guard Ben Grubbs will probably return as long as he doesn't have a setback with his injured right toe. Wide receiver Lee Evans told The Baltimore Sun that he's still not fully recovered from an ankle injury, but he's practicing and making progress. Hensley's slant: Of these three players, the one the Ravens desperately need back is Evans. Quarterback Joe Flacco had more chemistry with Evans than any other receiver in the preseason. Evans' ability to stretch the field will also open up the underneath routes for Anquan Boldin.
  • STEELERS: Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley had his best game since signing a five-year, $61.5 million contract this summer. In the win over the Titans, he had 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits and one interception. "I knew that was going to be the talk from the day I signed my contract, from the day I got franchised," Woodley told Pittsburgh reporters, via The Post-Gazette. "People expect more out of you, people expect you to be Superman when you sign a big contract." Hensley's slant: Woodley is stepping up at the right time. With James Harrison expected to be out at least another couple of games, the Steelers need Woodley to spearhead the pass rush. Woodley's next target is Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who has been sacked eight times in three starts.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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