Hillis, Hardesty Could be Dynamic Duo

Browns plan to use both backs to their benefit in 2011.

BEREA — The Browns have been waiting to pair Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty  for a long time. That should happen Sunday in the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

No, the duo may not be on the field at the same time, but again they might. The Browns can throw a one-two punch at their opponent and Pat Shurmur said there will be no holding Hardesty back.

"There's no pitch count on anybody Sunday," Shurmur said. "We‘re out there to win the game. He will play. He will get some carries, but as you know, Peyton Hillis is our starting tailback."

The Browns were cautious throughout the preseason with Hardesty and they are hoping it will pay off in the regular season.

"I'm excited because it's been over a full year since I played football," Hardesty said. "It's special. I've worked really hard to get back out there. I'm just taking it one day at a time."

Hillis is excited to have Hardesty back.

"It will help me a whole lot to have another running back," he said. "He is a guy who is very dependable and can go in there and get those tough yards he needs to and can give me a breather every now and the so that is always a good thing."

In Hardesty's absence last season, Hillis had a breakout season and there's no question in Shurmur's mind that Hillis can duplicate his season of 2010.

"I think he's a fine runner," Shurmur said. "What I've seen in the preseason is that he does a good job of catching the football, as well.

"The key when you have a halfback that you want to get the ball to, it really doesn't matter if you hand it to him or throw it to him, as long as he gets it and that's kind of the way I look at it."

Despite being on the cover of Madden 2012 and the popularity that goes with it, Hillis likes to think he still flies under the radar — at least in his mind.

"I like to think I'm unknown every year, so I can take advantage of things like that," he said. "It's a mindset because I look at each year like it could be my last. Each season brings new challenges, so I'll be ready for anything. I want to reach my full potential."

Hillis' will have a chance to reach that full potential playing in the West Coast offense.

"I was in the West Coast with coach (Mike) Shanahan my first year," Hillis said. "It is very player friendly and I think it will be good for us."

Shurmur isn't worried about being a one-dimensional offense.

"Hopefully, we can create enough balance and spread the ball around," Shurmur said. "If we get the ball to all the play makers, the offense takes care of itself."


First Game Importance: Statistics show that teams that win their first game generally go on to have a good season. Shurmur agrees that it is important to get off to a good start.

"I think it's important if you are going to string some victories, to get off to a good start," he said. "It's much easier to have a good season if you get off to a good start."

However, Shurmur isn't going to put all the pressure on his team to win.

"On the other hand, a loss in the first game is only fatal if you let it be."

Shurmur's Debut: This will be Shurmur's first game as an NFL head coach, but he feels he, Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert have formed a pretty good team.

"We had no knock down drag out arguments in who were cut," Shurmur said. "In terms of working together, it has been terrific. Tom Heckert's office is just one office down from me, so it's very rare I don't see Tom every couple of hours. I see coach Holmgren frequently as well. I feel as though it's been natural. I kind of enjoy the process."

Pashos Anxious: OL Tony Pashos (ankle) practiced on Thursday and barring a setback should be ready to start at right tackle against the Bengals.

"I'm just taking it day to day," Pashos said. "When I'm out there, I want to play. I think I've gotten some solid work and have made some progress."

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