Browns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas vented his frustration this afternoon when talking to reporters about his former teammate Peyton Hillis, who will visit Cleveland on Sunday as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Hillis had a breakout season with the Browns in 2010 and then a dramatic one in 2011 that was plagued by injury, off-the-field distractions and a contract dispute.
Here's some of what Thomas had to say about Hillis:
On Hillis being a distraction last season: "It was a terrible distraction. Crippled our offense because we ended up signing Obie off the street in the middle of the year and he ended up getting hurt. We were struggling to find anybody who could carry the ball after all the injuries we had. To have Peyton going through a contract dispute and basically refusing to play, it was a big distraction, but more than anything, because sometimes I think distractions are overrated, he was our starting running back that was a good player who was going to help us be a successful offense. When he’s not there and you don’t have anybody to turn to, it makes it hard to win. And that’s the distraction, it’s not being successful."
On if the Browns' beef with Hillis was more personal than most disputes among teammates: "Because probably because the way it was handled, more than anything. You see a lot of guys in contract disputes, like Matt Forte, his solution was ‘I’m going to go out and prove they have to have me and they can’t play without me.’ The frustrating thing to a lot of teammates was you try to talk to him and you try to tell him ‘That’s not the right way to do it if you want to get your big contract.’ He just wouldn’t listen to anybody. People who thought they were very close friends with him … he wouldn’t listen to anybody. He thought he knew what was the right way to do it and it ended up not being the right way and it ended up hurting everybody. Not just himself. It was a tough situation."
On if Hillis will return to Cleveland this weekend with a grudge: "He might. I guess I haven’t watched their offense, so I don’t really know what is role is. I’m sure he’ll probably want to come in here and prove they made a mistake by not resigning him. It will be interesting to see how many opportunities they give him."
On Hillis getting married last season: "Well, (laughs), it was kind of one weird thing after another more than anything. We have guys getting married during the season and it’s not a big deal. When you’re injured [Thomas used air quotes] and you should be getting treatment, to go do your own thing repeatedly is was just disrespectful more than anything to his teammates. I don’t think people would have acted the same way if they were in that situation."