Although Madden cover boy Peyton Hillis didn't practice Thursday because of a lingering hamstring injury, it seems the Cleveland Browns haven't given up on him just yet.
On Wednesday, Hillis practiced for the first time since getting hurt in the Browns' Oct. 16 game at the Oakland Raiders, suffering the injury on only his second run of the game in the first quarter. Most recently, he sat out of Cleveland's 6-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, a game where backup running back Montario Hardesty rushed for 95 yards.
Hardesty could be the short-term answer as long as Hillis is injured. But, coach Pat Shurmur told reporters Wednesday that Hillis is the Browns' guy. With that said, if he is able to return from his injury, Hillis will most likely get the nod over Hardesty for Sunday's game at the San Francisco 49ers.
Shurmur, however, described Hillis as being a little sore and the team will back him down as it prepares for Sunday's game. Shurmur says he's hopeful Hillis, whose messy contract situation and injuries have sabotaged his second season with Cleveland, will be able to play against the 49ers.
Deciding between Hills and Hardesty could have ramifications beyond Sunday's game. Hillis hasn't received a contract extension after rushing for nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Talks between the Browns and Hillis have been put on hold, but sticking with Hillis would show that the team still has some level of interest in him. Hillis is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season.
Hillis also had strep throat earlier in the year. In four games for the Browns, has 60 carries for 211 yards and two touchdowns, whereas Hardesty has 73 carries for 238 yards and no touchdowns.
Besides Hillis, kicker Phil Dawson, who made two field goals beyond 50 yards last week despite a bruised right thigh, will practice. Dawson was limited Wednesday.
Starting wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and tight end Benjamin Watson were kept out of practice for a second straight day as they continue to recover from concussions sustained last week. Their status for this week's game against the 49ers is uncertain.
Right guard Shawn Lauvao was back at practice after missing one day with a knee injury.
One interesting tidbit: In Hillis' four starts, the Browns are 1-3. In Hardesty's two starts, the Browns are 2-0.