Browns head coach Pat Shurmur spent part of his Monday press conference denying that he punished Peyton Hillis, saying that his decision to give Hillis only 10 carries in Sunday's loss to the Titans was unrelated to a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter that some of Hillis' teammates believed the running back let his contract situation influence his decision not to play through strep throat in Week 3.
"Absolutely not," Shurmur said. "That's a non-issue."
"The young man was sick and he didn't play," he later added. "OK, that's the end of it. He played yesterday and I think that's what the important thing is. Two weeks ago he didn't play. We played the Miami Dolphins and won. Yesterday, he was a significant contributor and we didn't win."
Hillis was asked about the rumor after Sunday's game, offering a denial of his own. From ESPN:
"That's shouldn't even be an issue," Hillis told reporters on Sunday after the Browns' 31-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans. "That's not an issue in my brain. I'll go out there and I'll play. But if I know I'm not 100 percent and I can hurt my team, I'm not going to risk myself."
Hillis lost 10-12 pounds because of the illness, so it's entirely plausible that he didn't feel strong enough to play in Week 3. And as of late last week, he still hadn't regained all of the weight, which may have contributed to his reduced role against the Titans. Hillis is making just $600,000 this year, but on the heels of his breakout 2010 season, he's spoken with the Browns about a new contract.