- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CLEVELAND (AP) - Fearing Peyton Hillis was weakened from strep throat and could risk injury, his agent advised the Browns’ bruising back not to play on Sept. 25 against Miami.

Hillis left Browns Stadium about two hours before kickoff, a decision that has led to speculation he was upset over negotiations with the club on a contract extension. However, agent Kennard McGuire told The Associated Press that Hillis was too sick to play, and that if he had chanced playing at less than 100 percent, he could have jeopardized his career.

“I would give him the same advice to him or any of my clients as if he were my son,” McGuire said in a phone interview. “The game is physical enough, and the way Peyton plays the game, he needs all the elements of his physical game. Him being sick, and the level of his sickness, is the equivalent of being injured.

“Not only could he have hurt himself but he could have hurt his team. Nobody embodies Cleveland like Peyton Hillis. If anyone wants to point a finger, point it at me.”

In the aftermath of Hillis‘ decision not to play, suspicions have been raised about the 25-year-old’s motives and some have questioned if he sat out in protest.

On Sunday, citing unidentified sources, ESPN reported that some players in Cleveland’s locker room wondered if Hillis‘ contract situation was a factor in him deciding not to play.

McGuire, like coach Pat Shurmur, was disturbed that if there were teammates who felt that way, they should have had the “courage” to speak out publicly.

McGuire said Hillis, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first season with Cleveland, has been affected by ongoing contract talks with the club.

“He’s human, of course it’s on his mind,” said McGuire, adding he has been in “constant contact” with the Browns. “Would it affect him being a pro? No. Does he feel underappreciated? Yes. He’s human. We all in life have a perceived value of our worth now, but we do believe that he’s deserving of something that mirrors his production of last year.”

Hillis carried Cleveland’s offense in 2010 under former coach Eric Mangini. Acquired in a trade from Denver for quarterback Brady Quinn, Hillis didn’t take long to storm into the hearts of Browns fans with a bulldozing running style that matched this blue-collar football city’s hard-working identity.

During the offseason, Hillis won a fan vote over Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick to grace the cover of the Madden 12 video game.

Last season, Hillis caught 61 passes and became the first player in team history to rush for more than 1,000 yards, make 50 catches and score 10 TDs in the same season.

He’s in the final year of a rookie contract that will pay him $600,000 and Hillis is hoping to be rewarded for his big season.

In the past month, the Browns have given contract extensions to several players they have identified as part of their future “core.” Pro Bowl offensive tackle Joe Thomas, tight end Evan Moore, defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin and linebacker Chris Gocong have all received new deals.

Hillis would figure to be in line for an extension, but McGuire indicated the sides aren’t near a deal.

“Both the Browns and I are in constant communication,” he said. “The fact that the Browns are in contact sends a message that both sides want to procure an agreement. It’s just that we are not aligned at this time as to what that value is. Details of these talks will always remain between me and the organization.”



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