BEREA, Ohio (AP) — True to his bulldozing running style, Peyton Hillis answered questions about his contract extension head on.
Cleveland’s star running back said Thursday that he’s not worried about continuing talks between his agent and the Browns becoming a distraction for him this season. In the past, players have allowed contract negotiations to affect their performance. Hillis, a former Conway High stadnout, insists his game won’t suffer.
"The bottom line is that it’s not up to me in the end," Hillis said. "When people say they want to stop negotiating it’s because they want to play better and they don’t want the (salary) figure to hang over their heads. So for me, if they want to come back and talk, I’m open.
"It’s up to the Cleveland Browns and until that time happens, I’ll continue to play my best."
The Browns are working on a new deal for Hillis — very quietly.
Browns general manager Tom Heckert declined to comment on the status of negotiations with Hillis, who is in the final year of his rookie contract.
"Until we get a deal done with somebody, we’re not gonna talk about it," Heckert said.
Hillis, who rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, is scheduled to make a base salary of $600,000 this season. Earlier this month, president Mike Holmgren said the Browns were "trying like crazy" to sign Hillis to a multiyear extension. The Browns are hoping to retain Hillis for several more years as they’ve done recently with Pro Bowl offensive tackle Joe Thomas, defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin and tight end Evan Moore.
Hillis ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns last week in a win at Indianapolis, a performance that won’t hurt agent Kennard McGuire at the bargaining table. Hillis said McGuire is keeping him informed on the talks, but he’s not asking for daily updates.
"It’s all in the good Lord’s plan," Hillis said. "It’s out my control and it’s up to the head man upstairs and what the Cleveland Browns think of me. I’ll take that approach with it and if they want me here, then great. I’ll just keep that attitude."
Heckert said the Browns have identified players they consider part of their future core, and they’ll reward those players as they see fit.
"Every case is different," Heckert said. "When I was in Philadelphia, we did guys real early with years left on their contracts and all kinds of stuff. I think there’s different ways to do it. I wouldn’t say we’re going do it this way for every guy. I don’t think that’s the case.
"You just make a decision on who you’re going to re-do and who you’re going to try to and who you’re going to wait until the end of the season."