Vinny the Fly: No Ointment Needed

You want the truth? Only Browns fans at The OBR can handle the truth. Vinny the Fly returns after hanging out on the walls and dining tables at the Browns training facility in Berea to give you the truth.

Peyton Hillis 1, the Cleveland Browns 1.

That's the telling tale following a two-week burst of media attention surrounding the starting running back of the Browns.

If you listen to the conspiracy theorists, some in the local and national media, Hillis and his agent, so distraught with the lack of movement in contract negotiations, decided to sabotage the Browns late in the week prior to the Browns game against the Miami Dolphins.

In a way, the truth is within that statement.

Hillis did decide not to play on the morning of the game. Maybe he decided earlier, but the organization and, most notably head coach Pat Shurmur, were in disbelief when Hillis, a major part of the game-plan, arrived at Cleveland Browns Stadium not ready to suit up for the game.

"I believe he is sick," Shurmur later said. That had a resonating sound within the organization. When the head coach says something unconvincingly you have to wonder exactly how deep the issues are between the the organization, the player and his agent. By the way, this is Hillis' third agent in approximately nine months.

Is there a locker room issue in Cleveland? Especially since someone had to have been the source of the reports that Hillis staged the illness to sit out.

No, but there had been some off-the-cuff comments made to stir the pot after the media latched onto the story. A few within the front office, coaching staff and locker were disappointed Hillis did not play.

Maybe those teammates didn't understand the delicate nature of Hillis' illness, while others did.

"He's a big part of what we do but he was sick, not injured," a source within the Browns locker room said. "He could have been getting the necessities throughout the game, if necessary. Just having him available would have been better than how it went down."

Basically, it comes down to this:

Hillis sits out. Second-year running back Montario Hardesty plays reasonably well. The Browns escape with a 17-16 victory. All is rosy for a few hours in Cleveland.

Fast forward to the following week. Hillis is healthy and practicing, but the coaching staff liked what they saw in Hardesty and decided to give him a greater role in the upcoming game.

Hillis is the Browns starting running back and leading pass receiver, but he was on the bench for significant portions of the Browns' 31-13 loss to Tennessee Titans. It was easy to see Shurmur wanted to see more of Hardesty, who happened to drop four passes and rush for 27 yards.

For Hillis, his day ended with a meager 46 yards rushing and the Browns lost convincingly.

This much will occur: Following the bye week, Hillis will be starting and getting his carries with Hardesty playing a complementary role.

Hillis will not be relegated to the bench for significant portions of the game, nor will he walk in on game-day and not be ready to contribute.

Meanwhile, the contract negotiations have been described as "not going well."

After Sunday in Cleveland, it is clear both sides had made their statement without saying a word.

Fly Droppings

—Shurmur and his staff will be evaluating the situational and positional units heavily during the bye week, which includes the head coach leaning heavily toward changing roles at the wide receiver position.

—Fans watching the Browns continue to ask where is wide out Carlton Mitchell? If he's healthy, why isn't he playing? Presently, he was caught in the numbers game and his practice sessions have not been the best. For a team seeking a spark, speed, quickness and length, Mitchell appears on the cusp of finally getting on the playing field. The opportunity has been presented and it is on him to take advantage of the opportunity.

—The coaching staff was pleased with the return of right tackle Tony Pashos. The belief is with Pashos in the lineup the offensive scheme will not have to supply help at the point of attack nearly as often as has been the case in the first three games of the season.

—While the head coach and starting quarterback Colt McCoy are on the same page, quarterback coach Mark Whipple has been directed by Shurmur to work with McCoy on getting the ball out of his hands quickly by trusting the play.

—In a change from past head coaches in Cleveland, Shurmur hasn't been afraid to play inexperienced players, especially those who are viewed as part of the future. Rookie defensive linemen Jabaal Sheard and Phil Taylor both start and fill vital roles. The Browns are pleased with the continued development of each and predict a bright future for the two linemen.

—The recent contract extension given to linebacker Chris Gocong caught many around the league as a monumental surprise. Gocong landed in Cleveland a season ago via a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles and had a rather pedestrian type season a year ago. Gocong missed most of training camp and preseason because of a neck/shoulder issue. He isn't viewed as a 4-3 outside linebacker by league evaluators. Maybe the Browns know something most everyone doesn't? Only time will tell.

—On the injury front, starting cornerback Joe Haden may not be shelved for as long as first thought. Either Haden's knee sprain isn't as bad as initially diagnosed, or he is a quick healer. Haden remains in a leg brace and we've learned the second-year player has commented that the leg is feeling better and he may only be a couple weeks away from playing.


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