Browns remain committed (for now) to Hillis

October, 26, 2011
10/26/11
4:03
PM ET
The Cleveland Browns are remaining committed -- for at least this game -- to Peyton Hillis. If Hillis is able to return from a hamstring injury, he will get the nod over Montario Hardesty for Sunday's game at the San Francisco 49ers.

"He's our starting halfback," coach Pat Shurmur told reporters Wednesday.

It might be too early to read much into this decision, but it could have ramifications beyond this game. While talks between the Browns and Hillis have been put on hold, sticking with Hillis shows that the team still has some level of interest in the running back. Hillis is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season.

If the Browns had made the decision that Hillis didn't fit into their plans or offense, this would be the time to make the shift to Hardesty, who is coming off a 95-yard game against a tough Seattle run defense. Cleveland would want to use the rest of the season to see if Hardesty, a 2010 second-round pick, was ready to handle the workload of a starting running back.

It will be interesting to see how the carries are split. After Hardesty's career day Sunday, Shurmur said he had "earned" more carries. "He played like a starting running back and he battled," Shurmur said Sunday.

This has been a drama-filled season for Hillis, the current Madden cover athlete. He caused a stir when he missed the Sept. 25 game against Miami with strep throat. Hillis then talked publicly about his future with the Browns because he hadn't received a contract extension.

In Hillis' four starts, the Browns are 1-3. In Hardesty's two starts, the Browns are 2-0.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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