Peyton Hillis' Madden Curse is apparently over, and he's moving on in its wake. A year after gracing the cover of the ubiquitous video game, the unrestricted-free-agent running back has agreed to move on from the Cleveland Browns to the Kansas City Chiefs, signing a one-year, $3 million deal on Wednesday.
Hillis, a seventh-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2008, first showed flashed of greatness in his rookie season, when he led the team with just 343 yards in Mike Shanahan's last year with the franchise after a series of injuries made his presence necessary. Hillis' role was reduced in 2009 under new head coach Josh McDaniels, and he was involved in the worst personel decision McDaniels made during a history of them in Denver -- on March 14, 2010, McDaniels traded Hillis AND a sixth-round pick to the Browns for quarterback Brady Quinn.
Hillis' first season in Cleveland made McDaniels look even sillier. While Quinn sat on the bench in Denver, Hillis gained 1,177 yards and scored 11 touchdowns on 270 carries. He was supposed to be the heart and soul of the Browns' offense going into 2010, but after the Madden cover (cue the spooky music), everything started to go wrong. First, Hillis missed one game with strep throat on the advice of his agent, leading some to wonder whether he really had any medical issues at all. He further alienated the Browns' faithful by no-showing to a children's charity event on Halloween, and by heading back to his home in Arkansas for his wedding when the team thought he was rehabbing an injury.
Things got weirder in November, when a group of Browns veterans sat Hillis down, intervention-style, and tried to help him regain his focus. As Yahoo!'s Mike Silver reported, nobody on the team could understand what Hillis' problem was, though contract issues seemed to be at the heart of his dissatisfaction.
"It's been a humbling experience," Hillis told Silver. "It's been a whirlwind coming from where I was to where I'm at now. I'm trying to grasp the whole situation and trying to deal with it. It's still a learning process and I'm trying to do the best I can."
In early March, it seemed that his focus might be moving away from football entirely, when ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Hillis was wavering between football and a possible career in the CIA. In that article, Schefter insightfully pointed to the possible roots of Hillis' insecurities.
Hillis has felt defeated throughout his time in football, whether it was being benched at Arkansas in favor of Felix Jones and Darren McFadden, being traded away from the Denver Broncos, or being unable to procure the long-term deal he desired in Cleveland. It led him to tell Cleveland's coaches that he didn't know whether he wanted to play football anymore.
Hopefully, Hillis can put it all back together with the Chiefs. He's a talented back who can succeed in the right role ... as long as he understands what that role is. He'll be reunited with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who presided over his breakout season in Cleveland.
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