- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Putting his focus on the season, Browns running back Peyton Hillis said he is not going to talk about a new contract for the rest of the season.
This follows the Browns' party line which was set by team president Mike Holmgren, who said last week that contract talks with Hillis are on hold. It was a little over two weeks ago when Hillis expressed doubts about his long-term future with the team because he hadn't received an extension.
Why the change of heart now?
"Fans or media or coaches, we gotta move forward from this because we don’t need any distractions," Hillis told the Akron Beacon Journal. "I’m not going to be a distraction. I’m going to help this team win as much as I possibly can and do what I can.”
Hillis enjoyed a breakthrough season last year, rushing for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. His production has dropped significantly this season, and he's projected to gain 562 yards rushing and score five touchdowns.
Our friend John G. McTigue over at ESPN Stats & Information pointed out that the struggles in the running game can be traced more to the Browns' offensive line than Hillis.
Hillis hasn't had the benefit of many open running lanes this season. Of his 211 yards rushing, 155 have come after contact. Hillis leads the NFL with 73.5 percent of his yards coming after contact. The next closest is the Vikings' Adrian Peterson, who has gained 57.4 percent of his yards after contact. The running back who ranks third in this category is Hillis' backup, Montario Hardesty (57.1 percent).
The Browns have used four different offensive line combinations this season, and the lack of chemistry shows. Cleveland's running backs have gained the fewest yards before contact in the NFL (1.3). The NFL average is 2.4 yards before contact.
So it probably doesn't matter who gets the ball for the Browns. The only way Hillis or Hardesty will have success is improvement from the offensive line.