BEREA, Ohio -- His image tattered, his reputation under attack, Browns running back Peyton Hillis tried to stiff arm past another mess in a season spiraling out of control.
Hillis apologized Wednesday for missing a Halloween party for kids that he was supposed to attend, blaming his unexcused absence on a miscommunication. Hillis failed to show up at the Boys & Girls Club on Monday to hand out candy to 50 children at the event, which was hosted by former Browns offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, a club board member.
"I just want to say I'm sorry about the charity event with the Boys and Girls Club," said Hillis, who has missed Cleveland's past two games with a hamstring injury. "There was a lot of miscommunication between me and the management that I had and if I knew the full depths of it, I wouldn't have missed it.
"I've always made community events before (but) that shouldn't be an excuse now. Like I said, I'm sorry about everything and hopefully in the near future we can be able to make that up."
Bentley had secured a commitment that Hillis would attend from Kyle Hillis, the back's brother and business manager.
Hillis did not name his brother when addressing his reasons for missing the event, a nonappearance that triggered a backlash from Cleveland fans and a public relations gaffe Hillis couldn't afford.
"It was misinformation between me and my management about what it was, where it was and stuff like that," Hillis said. "But from that standpoint I'm still truly sorry and there's still no excuse."
Hillis did not take any questions and promised to talk again Thursday.
Bentley was furious with Hillis following Monday's event and vented on his Twitter page, posting: "Peyton Hillis looking for 10mil guaranteed from Browns and can't show up to kids charity event? #ManPlease."
Reached by phone Wednesday, Bentley wanted to put the situation behind him.
"We can all move forward," Bentley told the AP. "He's a great player and I wish him the best."
It's been a stunning fall from grace for Hillis, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Hillis endeared himself to Cleveland fans with his bulldozing style, and during the offseason he won a nationwide fan vote to be the Madden video game cover.
He has to now wonder if the tribute is more of a curse.
His second season with Cleveland has been entangled in controversy.
It began with his public contract squabble with Browns management about a long-term extension. He then sat out the Sept. 25 game against Miami with strep throat, a decision made on the advice of his agent, Kennard McGuire. In the aftermath, Hillis' toughness and commitment were questioned by some who wondered if he sat out in part because of his contract.
He's been sidelined the past two weeks after injuring his hamstring on Oct. 16 against Oakland. He returned to practice last Wednesday, but suffered a setback and missed Sunday's game in San Francisco.
On Wednesday, coach Pat Shurmur initially told reporters Hillis would practice as the Browns (3-4) prepared for Sunday's game in Houston. However, Hillis was dressed in sweats and left the field with a trainer shortly after the media was allowed in to watch the first 15 minutes.
Hillis was listed as "did not participate" on the Browns' first injury report of the week and his status for Sunday's game is uncertain.
The Browns need a healthy Hillis more than ever.
With backup Montario Hardesty out this week with a torn calf muscle and expected to miss several games with the injury, the Browns are down to Chris Ogbonnaya as their feature back. Ogbonnaya has only been with the club since Oct. 18, when he was signed off the Texans' practice squad.
The Browns signed Thomas Clayton on Tuesday following a tryout. Clayton was active for two games with Cleveland last season, but must now quickly learn Shurmur's new West Coast offense.
"I'm ready to rock and roll," he said. "The learning curve will be pretty easy considering I'm familiar with a lot of the players here and the coaching staff as well. Everyone's been pretty helpful. So I should be able to get out there and contribute pretty soon."
Injuries have decimated the Browns' backfield, which appeared to be a team strength when the season started. But Brandon Jackson, who was signed as a free agent to be the team's third-down back, sustained a season-ending injury in August and Hillis and Hardesty have been banged up.
It's not an ideal situation for Cleveland's running game, which is ranked 29th in the league.
"When you're shuffling guys in and out, it's a challenge, but it happens all over," Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said. "This is not just unique to our situation. Having a running back that's been there is helpful because there is a continuity aspect. It's just like having the same five offensive linemen is helpful. It's helpful to have a guy who's been there for a while.
"Sometimes you've just got to play the cards you've been dealt."
WR Mohamed Massaquoi (concussion) participated in the team's walkthrough, but has not yet been medically cleared to practice. ... CB Dimitri Patterson (knee) worked indoors with trainers. If he can't play, Shurmur said rookie Buster Skrine will play nickel back. ... LB Chris Gocong was limited in practice with a neck stinger. ... Shurmur praised WR Brian Robiskie, who was waived Tuesday: "I like Brian," Shurmur said. "He's an NFL receiver. We hope he's playing football soon for somebody." Jacksonville claimed Robiskie on waivers after the Jaguars placed Mike Sims-Walker on injured reserve.