BEREA: A day after being ripped by Browns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas for the way he handled his contract dispute during his final season in Cleveland, Kansas City Chiefs running back Peyton Hillis fired back with a verbal assault.
“Joe Thomas, he can have his opinions all he wants,” Hillis told Kansas City reporters Thursday. “He’s kind of like a crazy ex-girlfriend. It’s been over a year. Get over it.
“But I guess when you get paid over 100 million dollars by one team, it’s kind of easy to point the finger at other guys and try to hate on them for trying to get another contract.”
In light of Hillis’ response, Thomas might want to play defense Sunday, so he could get a piece of his former teammate when the Browns (4-8) host the Chiefs (2-10).
Thomas criticized Hillis for creating a “toxic” situation and a “terrible distraction” during his final season in Cleveland. Last year, Hillis missed one game with what he said was strep throat and five others with an injured left hamstring, but Thomas is skeptical. He accused Hillis of “basically refusing to play” because of his contract issues.
Thomas also described Hillis’ series of dramatic off-the-field incidents as “one weird thing after another.” During the season, Hillis got married in Arkansas on a Tuesday when he was supposed to receive treatment for his hamstring in Berea, Thomas said, adding it was “disrespectful more than anything to his teammates.”
Former Browns right tackle Tony Pashos chimed in on Twitter after reading Thomas’ comments online.
“[You] can tell it was hell when Joe speaks out about it,” Pashos wrote. “He just gave [you] guys the tip [of the iceberg].”
Hillis, though, said he doesn’t regret the way he handled last season. The Browns allowed Hillis to hit the open market in March, and he signed a one-year contract with the Chiefs worth a maximum of $2.8 million. He is now the backup to standout running back Jamaal Charles.
“I don’t have any bitterness or resentment or regrets,” Hillis said of his turbulent ending with the Browns. “I did what I did. There are always regrets in every process or things you wish you had done better. Now is now. I’ve got to do the best I can for me now.”
Hillis also pointed out that he did not start the war of words with Thomas, one of the Browns’ captains. He acted as if he took the high road.
“I’m not talking about anybody,” Hillis said. “I’m trying to go about my life like everybody else. I’m trying to play, and I’m trying to make a living.”
Coach Pat Shurmur was asked if he was OK with Thomas speaking out about Hillis.
“I’d prefer my players say nothing,” Shurmur said. “But I realize that that’s not the case.”
Second-year tight end Jordan Cameron has quietly made crucial plays to help the Browns establish their current two-game winning streak.
On Nov. 25, he caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter of the Browns’ 20-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. On Sunday, he caught a short pass, broke an attempted tackle by linebacker Miles Burris and turned it into a 23-yard gain during the Browns’ 94-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter of their 20-17 win over the Oakland Raiders.
“I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunities they give me, and I feel like I’ve been doing that a little bit more than I have been in the past,” Cameron said. “So these last couple weeks, they’ve given me more opportunities to get out there and make some plays, and I think I’ve taken advantage of them.”
The coaches have noticed.
“Jordan gets better and better,” offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. “Remember, he hasn’t played football for very long. This being his second year and second year in the system and kind of having, as I say, that one lap around the track, to me is huge.”
Cameron believes he’s improving.
“I’ve been getting the little things right, the details of the assignments and where I fit in this offense and the concepts, definitely my blocking, my footwork and where to put my hands,” he said. “It’s been a lot of work, but I think you’re finally starting to see all that hard work in the offseason paying off.”
Quarterback Colt McCoy started 21 games in the past two years for the Browns, but he has spent this season as a backup to rookie Brandon Weeden.
In a story published Wednesday night by the Daily Texan, the University of Texas’ student newspaper, McCoy vented his frustration about his situation following the Browns’ overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 18.
“It’s a hard deal, especially when you feel like you should be playing,” McCoy said. “You just got to stay positive. It’s a marathon and not a sprint.
“I want to win. I’ve always won. I want to be part of an environment that’s winning. That’s the frustration of not being able to play.”
McCoy lamented being replaced as the starter. The Browns drafted Weeden in the first round (22nd overall) of this year’s draft. They picked McCoy in the third round (85th overall) in 2010, a year before Shurmur succeeded Eric Mangini as the coach.
“I got drafted by a different coaching staff, and they’re going to bring new guys in,” McCoy said. “You don’t want to make any excuses or anything, but you just have to live to fight each day, and I’m in that position right now.”
Left guard Jason Pinkston was placed on injured reserve Oct. 22 with a blood clot in his lung, but he has been cleared to resume weightlifting and conditioning.
“Finally cleared to lift and condition full time!!” Pinkston tweeted. “Appreciate the thoughts and prayers!!!”
Shurmur did not want to predict if Pinkston will be able to continue his NFL career.
“It’s hard for me to tell what the long range is for him,” Shurmur said. “I saw him [Wednesday], talked to him. He looked like he was doing well.”
John Greco, who replaced Pinkston in the starting lineup after his condition was discovered, believes Pinkston is thrilled to be able to work out again.
“I know he was probably getting sick of sitting around doing nothing,” Greco said. “I know he’s probably happy. That’s good news for him.”
Wide receiver/returner Josh Cribbs (shoulder/chest) and offensive tackle Ryan Miller (forearm) were limited in practice. Cameron (groin), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle), running back Trent Richardson (chest/rib/finger), defensive end Frostee Rucker (shoulder/finger), special-teams ace Ray Ventrone (calf) and free safety Usama Young (concussion) fully participated.
Patterson sat out the past seven games since suffering a high ankle sprain and torn ligament on Oct. 7. Patterson said he would have been able to play against the Raiders, but he was ruled out Friday and did not travel with the team.
“He practiced well [Wednesday], so we’ll just have to see Sunday what his role is,” Shurmur said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
For the Chiefs, safeties Eric Berry (hand) and Abram Elam (quad), cornerback Brandon Flowers (hamstring), linebacker Derrick Johnson (hamstring) and center/guard Ryan Lilja (knee) did not practice. Offensive tackle Branden Albert (back), linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) and safety Kendrick Lewis (shoulder) were limited. Guard Jeff Allen (illness) fully participated.
Thomas was selected as the Cleveland Browns 2012 Walter Payton Man of the Year. Thomas also received the honor in 2010 and is the only player in franchise history to earn it twice.
Renamed in 1999 after legendary Chicago Bears Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, the award recognizes a player’s community-service activities and performance on the field. Three finalists from throughout the league will be announced at a later date, and each one will be at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on Feb. 3 for the announcement of the NFL Man of the Year.
Childress testified Monday at bounty case hearings in New Orleans. He doesn’t think he’ll be called back for further discussion. … Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said rookie free safety Tashaun Gipson will “definitely stay in the rotation” with Young, who expects to play Sunday after sitting out this past weekend with a concussion. … The Browns will join the NFL on Sunday in honoring the 50th anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. During the game, players will wear a special patch on their uniforms to commemorate the anniversary. ... Childress revealed Greco’s nickname — meatball. “I just assumed that [Childress] knew my Italian roots and that I like to cook,” Greco said. “So that’s the way I took it. It’s all in good fun.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com.