- Associated Press - Friday, September 9, 2011

BEREA, OHIO (AP) - The Cleveland Browns are now trying to tackle Peyton Hillis.

The team is in contract negotiations with Hillis on a long-term extension, the Browns‘ latest attempt to secure one their young core players for the future.

Talks between the Browns and the running back’s agent have been going on quietly for some time, but team president Mike Holmgren confirmed the meetings Friday for the first time. Holmgren said the Browns are “trying like crazy” to sign the hard-charging Hillis, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards last season.

“We’re always trying to keep all of our good young players,” Holmgren said through a spokesman.

Following practice, Hillis seemed confident the sides would reach an agreement, but didn’t know how soon.

“When the Browns want to extend me, they’ll extend me,” he said. “I’m going to do my part and play hard and do what I can do to make myself a better player.”

Agent Kennard McGuire did not immediately return a phone message or email to the AP seeking comment.

Hillis appreciates the Browns wanting to keep him, but cautioned that talks are ongoing.

“It does mean a lot, but as the old saying goes, ‘it ain’t real unless it’s here or already’,” he said. “You still have to play like it’s your last play and you’re working for something.”

The 25-year-old Hillis is in the final year of his rookie contract, which will pay him $600,000 _ he recently got a $45,000 bump from the new CBA _ this season.

It’s not known what he’s seeking from the Browns, but there are two recent deals for running backs he may use to frame out his contract: the 5-year, $43 million ($21 million guaranteed) Carolina gave DeAngelo Williams and the 3-year, $21 million ($13.5 million guaranteed) contract Frank Gore signed with San Francisco.

Hillis is not yet in the same category as those backs, but he soon could be and the Browns have made signing core players a priority. They recently gave offensive lineman Joe Thomas a seven-year, $84 million deal and signed tight end Evan Moore to a two-year extension worth $3 million per season.

The Browns, who have roughly $16 million in salary cap room, are also working on an extension for defensive tackle Ahytyba Rubin, whose 82 tackles led all NFL linemen last season.

Rubin is grateful the Browns want to lock him up. However, he insists his focus is on facing the Cincinnati Bengals in Sunday’s opener.

“Basically I’ve just gotta go on and just do what I can do on the field, make sure I can produce out there and everything else handles itself,” Rubin said. “I love Cleveland. I’ve got friends and family here. This is where I want to be. I’ve just gotta let my agent and my play on the field handle itself.”

Story Continues →