BEREA: Browns running back Peyton Hillis might not miss his sixth consecutive game after all.
After being ruled out by coach Pat Shurmur earlier this week, Hillis practiced Friday for the first time since Nov. 4 and is now listed as questionable on the team’s injury report. Shurmur said it will be a game-time decision whether Hillis plays when the Browns (4-6) visit the Cincinnati Bengals (6-4) on Sunday.
“Nothing surprises me,” Shurmur said. “I think we’ve crossed that bridge already.”
Hillis injured his left hamstring Oct. 16 against the Oakland Raiders and hasn’t played since. He tried to return in early November, but he aggravated his hamstring during practice.
Shurmur didn’t expect Hillis to be this far along in his recovery. Hillis believes his progress has accelerated as of late because he received a shot of platelet-rich plasma about two-and-a-half weeks ago. The treatment involves drawing blood from a patient, separating the platelets and injecting the blood back into the patient near the point of injury.
“I miss playing football,” said Hillis, who appeared to run full speed Friday as he carried the ball for the first-team offense. “It’s what I was brought up my whole life to do. I’m excited to get out there playing a game. I’m excited about winning games. I’m excited to see how I can play during this time. I’m excited I feel 100 percent again.”
Shurmur said he has yet to decide whether he would start Hillis if the latter is active Sunday. Running back Montario Hardesty hasn’t played since he tore a calf muscle in his right leg Oct. 30 against the San Francisco 49ers, though he will be “ready to roll” against the Bengals, Shurmur said. Meanwhile, third-string running back Chris Ogbonnaya could still receive playing time, considering Hillis and Hardesty are questionable.
“We have running backs coming back from injury, so none of them can handle a full load,” Shurmur said. “I think that’s an important thing to remember.
“If our backs are healthy, then Hillis is the starter, backed up by Montario, backed up by Obi. … That’s ideal, and we’ll see Sunday how much less than ideal we are.”
Regardless of how many snaps he plays, Hillis would be grateful just to be back in action. He said he loathes sitting out on game days.
“It’s awful,” Hillis said. “I mean just to the point of getting treatment and knowing you can’t play, standing on the sideline, [seeing the team] lose close games and wondering if you could have been out there and you could’ve helped and stuff like that. So I’ve been working my best to get out there, and I’m excited about the opportunity.”
The Browns waived fourth-string running back Thomas Clayton on Friday after Hillis made it through practice. Defensive lineman Kiante Tripp was signed to the 53-man roster.
“I’m loving the opportunity,” Tripp said. “Now I’ve just got to seize the moment, just go out and play hard and do what I can.”
The Atlanta Falcons signed the 6-foot-6, 276-pound Tripp as an undrafted free agent on July 27. They waived him on Sept. 2. He has spent the past seven weeks on the Browns’ practice squad.
Other injury updates
There’s a chance fullback Owen Marecic (concussion) could play Sunday even though he did not practice all week, Shurmur said. Tight end Alex Smith would likely play fullback if Marecic, who’s questionable, ends up being inactive.
Defensive end Jayme Mitchell (ankle), offensive lineman Tony Pashos (ankle) and defensive tackle Brian Schaefering (ankle) are also questionable. Defensive ends Auston English (knee), Jabaal Sheard (thigh) and Emmanuel Stephens (foot), offensive lineman Shawn Lauvao (knee), quarterback Colt McCoy (right shoulder) and tight end Benjamin Watson (elbow) are probable.
Strong safety T.J. Ward (foot) and linebacker Quinton Spears (hamstring) have been ruled out. Shurmur said Usama Young will continue to start in place of Ward, even though rookie strong safety Eric Hagg took reps with the first-team defense on Friday.
For the Bengals, defensive end Carlos Dunlap (hamstring) and tight end Donald Lee (foot) are doubtful.
The following players are probable: cornerbacks Nate Clements (knee), Brandon Ghee (groin) and Adam Jones (groin), safety Chris Crocker (knee), quarterback Andy Dalton (right shoulder), wide receiver A.J. Green (knee), defensive end Michael Johnson (shoulder), linebackers Dontay Moch (noninjury) and Vincent Rey (hamstring), defensive tackle Domata Peko (foot) and offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth (thigh).
Matchup to watch
Browns cornerback Joe Haden is looking forward to reuniting with Green, who is expected to return to action after missing a game with a hyperextended knee. Green, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, has 41 catches for 635 yards and six touchdowns this season.
“I look forward to it a lot,” Haden said. “He’s one of the best receivers we have in the division. He’s gotten better as Dalton’s gotten more mature. They have a good connection. He goes to him a lot. It just seems to be working really well with those guys.”
Haden, who leads the NFL with 16 pass breakups, limited Green to one catch in Week 1. Haden left Green uncovered during the Bengals’ quick-snap play, and Green capitalized by catching the game-winning touchdown pass.
“He’s a deep threat, and he has really good speed,” Haden said. “He can jump. He’s an all-around really good receiver. It will definitely be a challenge to cover him. It should be a good matchup.”
Pashos did not practice Friday because his wife went into labor, Shurmur said. The couple was expecting their first child. … Schaefering returned to practice Friday after sitting out Thursday. … Mitchell was sidelined Thursday and Friday.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://browns.ohio.com. Follow the Browns on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ABJ_Browns and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/browns.abj.