On the surface, it looks like a swap of unproductive running backs. But the Browns' decision to send Jerome Harrison to Philadelphia for Mike Bell seems puzzling considering the injury status of top back Peyton Hillis.
It may not be on par with coach Bill Belichick cutting Bernie Kosar when Vinny Testaverde had his arm in a sling. But Hillis missed practice Wednesday with a pulled quad muscle suffered last week. Coach Eric Mangini said he expects Hillis back in action, perhaps on Thursday, and that he would play Sunday at Pittsburgh.
But Hillis was in and out of last week's loss to Atlanta, when he rushed for 28 yards on 10 carries and caught four passes for 49 yards, including a 19-yard TD.
Evidently the Browns' medical reports on Hillis are encouraging because no one else on the Cleveland roster had more than Harrison's 91 yards rushing (2.9 average). Hillis has totalled 350 yards on 76 carries and four touchdowns, along with 20 receptions for 143 yards and another score.
James Davis will be next in line if Hillis is limited against the Steelers.
For the Eagles, Bell had totalled 28 yards on 16 carries and one of those was a 9-yard gain. He was signed as a free agent to backup LeSean McCoy, but has not been needed. Entering the league as an undrafted free agent with the Broncos in 2006, Bell joined his fourth team in four seasons (also playing with New Orleans).
In the grand scheme, Harrison had to see this coming. After he saved Mangini's job and the Browns' season with 570 yards and five touchdowns as the Browns won the final four games in 2009, the Browns traded for Hillis and drafted Montario Hardesty out of Tennessee. Hardesty is out for the season with a torn ACL. Harrison received only a second-round tender as a restricted free agent, worth $1.759 million.
There seemed to be no appreciation of Harrison's single-game record of 286 yards last Dec. 20 at Kansas City, which broke Jim Brown's record of 237 yards.
In the locker room Wednesday, Harrison seemed down, resigned to his fate as Hillis's backup. He didn't seem pumped by the prospect of more carries considering Hillis's injury. Asked if he was excited for a big game against the Steelers, his reaction almost evoked an attitude of 'Are you kidding me?'
''My life is great,'' Harrison said. ''I've got a wife and child and another on the way.''
Mangini apparently could not coax Harrison out of his funk, even in Harrison's contract year. As they congratulated Harrison on their Twitter accounts, Browns teammates may wonder who's next as the Oct. 19 trade deadline approaches.
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