KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Peyton Hillis lashed back at former teammate Joe Thomas on Thursday, comparing the Browns’ offensive tackle to a “crazy ex-girlfriend” after he made disparaging comments about the Kansas City Chiefs running back.
Thomas told reporters in Cleveland on Wednesday that Hillis didn’t always play hard during his time with the Browns. He also accused Hillis of creating a “toxic” environment in the locker room by putting his contract situation ahead of the team.
“Joe Thomas, he can have his opinions all he wants,” Hillis said Thursday. “It’s kind of like a crazy ex-girlfriend, you know? It’s been over a year. Get over it. But I don’t know. I guess when you get paid over $100 million by one team, it’s kind of easy to point the finger at another guy and hate on him for trying to get another contract.”
The salty words are sure to add another layer of intrigue to Sunday’s game in Cleveland between the Chiefs and Browns. Besides Hillis, other former Browns making their return include quarterback Brady Quinn, coach Romeo Crennel and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
“I’m not talking bad about anybody,” Hillis said. “I’m just trying to go on with my life, like anybody else, and just play. You know, try to make a living.”
Hillis was a breakout star with the Browns in 2011, rushing for 1,177 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns. His hard-nosed playing style made him a fan favorite, and he was even selected to grace the cover of that year’s edition of the Madden video game.
He openly campaigned for a long-term contract with the Browns, and according to Thomas, that proved to be the start of the problems.
“He was everything people knew about him – hard-working, blue-collar, tough, would do anything for anybody on the team,” Thomas said. “All he cared about was winning, and then all of a sudden the next year, all he cared about was trying to get his new contract.”
Hillis sat out a game with strep throat on the advice of his agent, Kennard McGuire. He missed several others with a hamstring injury, and while he was rehabbing one week, left the team and missed a treatment to get married in Arkansas.
“It was kind of one weird thing after another more than anything,” Thomas said. “We have guys getting married during the season and it’s not a big deal. When you’re injured and you should be getting treatment, to go do your own thing repeatedly was just disrespectful more than anything to his teammates.”
Thomas was one of several veterans who encouraged Hillis to clean up his act.
“People who thought they were very close friends with him, he wouldn’t listen to anybody,” Thomas said. “He thought he knew the right way to do it and it ended up not being the right way and hurting everybody. Not just himself. It was a tough situation.”
Hillis never received a long-term deal from the Browns and ultimately became a free agent. He signed a one-year deal with Kansas City in the offseason, but has failed to provide the kind of hard-nosed alternative to speedy running back Jamaal Charles that the Chiefs had hoped. He’s run for only 193 yards and scored his lone touchdown last week.
“I don’t have any bitterness or resentment or regrets. I did what I did,” Hillis said. “There are always regrets in every process, or things you wish you did better, but now is now, and I have to do what’s best for me now.”
Hillis missed several weeks this season with what was described as a high ankle sprain, but Crennel said he never had reason to question the seriousness of the injury. Crennel also said that Hillis has done everything that’s been asked of him.
“He’s been good ever since he’s been here. I’ve had no problems with him,” Crennel said. “He’s been productive on the field other than when he was injured, when he wasn’t able to be on the field.”
Hillis said he harbors no ill will toward fans in Cleveland, and he’s looking forward to the opportunity to play in front of them on Sunday, regardless of the reception he may receive.
“It’s going to be a good experience,” he said. “I really enjoyed the fans there and I think the whole atmosphere there, I really liked it, and it’ll be good to go back.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Berea, Ohio, contributed to this report.