Browns’ Joe Thomas calls Peyton Hillis’ time in Cleveland “toxic”

Hall of Fame-bound offensive lineman Joe Thomas pulled no punches this afternoon when describing his time with former running back Peyton Hillis, stating that the big-biceped back created a toxic environment in the Browns’ locker room.

Per essentially every beat writer and radio/television reporter in Cleveland, Thomas stated the following:

“I think it was better for both sides [that Hillis left]. At that point the situation with him here was toxic, and he didn’t want to be here and players didn’t want him here. It was better for a fresh start at that point. […] It was just the fact, he decided his contract was more important than coming out and playing and helping his team win, and it left us without a running back and then we had a few injuries that hurt us further, with Montario [Hardesty] being down and Brandon Jackson, losing him in training camp. He went about trying to get a contract a certain way, and it ended up hurting the other 52 guys in the locker room. That was his decision.”

Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealerhas a fairly lengthy transcript of what Thomas had to say in addition to the venom spewed above. There were multiple rumors that surrounded Hillis falling out of favor with the Browns, going as far as stating that the team had to have an intervention of sorts on a flight back from a game. While the opinions surrounding Hillis are not surprisng, these words coming from Thomas will raise some eyebrows as the left tackle is typically very reserved.

Hills was acquired in a deal that sent then quarterback Brady Quinn to Denver. After rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2011, Hillis was a monumental disappointment in 2012, leading to his departure to Kansas City this past summer, uniting both players.

[Related: Tom Heckert’s future may rest in his own hands]

  • mgbode

    obviously, Joe Thomas as a Wisconsin guy is just upset that Peyton Hillis’ alma mater Arkansas just stole Brett Bielema and is willing to drag his name
    through the mud because of it.

    and if you believe that one…

  • Big Z

    Hillis’ fall from grace in 2011 was very Browns-like…

  • Natedawg86

    Why were Thomas’ words venomous? (” in addition to the venom spewed above. “)
    Joe just wants to win. He goes to work, pours his heart and soul into it, and expects the same of others. He is a team first guy that gives credit where it is due, and apparantly does not like it when teammates take a “me first” approach. It takes 11 guys…

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Agreed that there’s no “venom”, but it’s worth pointing out that almost NO player will comment on another player’s contract negotiation. One could say it is odd to hear Thomas tell Hillis he’s going about it the wrong way when Joe makes 10x what Hillis was making.

    Put it in your own work context. Would you like to hear that a co-worker that makes way more money than you is telling everyone you’re being selfish?

    For the record, Hillis DID go about it the wrong way, in my opinion.

  • MrCleaveland

    Thank you, Braylon.

  • MrCleaveland

    Agree that this was not “venom.” He sounded pretty matter-of-fact to me.

  • bosssman09

    Uhm I would certainly have a problem if a co-worker stopped working to try and affect their contract negotiations regardless of how much more or less I made. It hurts everyone. Most players don’t comment unless it hurts the team – See jackson in philly last year as an example.

  • mgbode

    you just had to drop that comment in

  • woofersus

    The vast majority of guys will back somebody up if they hold out for a contract. They all understand the business side of things. Joe Thomas would have had Peyton’s back if he had been up front about it and said “I’m not coming to camp without a new contract of some kind.” But when somebody tries to hold the product on the field hostage mid-season as leverage, it’s a crappy move. Once you’re there, be there. Other guys are counting on you.

  • woofersus

    And it wasn’t ALL Hillis’ fault, but toxic is exactly what it was. The Browns didn’t really ever make a serious offer to him. (a mistake I think, because while RB’s are lesser in value than they once were, they didn’t have somebody ready to take his place if he left and they couldn’t afford to lose his production, as demonstrated by last year’s results and need to use a #3 pick on a RB) Peyton’s feelings were hurt and he pouted in all the wrong ways, his teammates were frustrated that he wasn’t being a team player, and the Browns coaches were frustrated because they felt like he was holding their offense hostage. I think the whole thing could have gone differently if either Peyton had been more mature about the situation and either held out or played hard, or if the Browns had taken his previous season and their need for stability seriously and offered him more than a 3mil contract or whatever joke it was. Regardless, Thomas is right. Both sides needed a fresh start.

    Interestingly, the biggest loser in the whole situation may have been Colt McCoy, who had nearly no running game to stay the pass rush that kept him out of the pocket constantly, and nobody who could catch the ball out of the backfield. (or anywhere else on the field, but that’s a different story)

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Good point.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Agreed. It is bad form to hold out mid season. I think Hillis has an inflated view of his importance. Thus, the 25 agents in 3 seasons.

  • PDub

    I would like to see what Weeden’s numbers would look like with last year’s team and no off-season going into training camp. I would also like to see what Colt’s numbers would look like with this team (Richardson, Gordon, and a Coach who actually wants him to succeed). Its the only fair comparison.

  • BenRM

    what does this have to do with anything?

  • porckchopexpress

    I would like to see what Trent Dilfer’s numbers would have looked like with no offseason, 60% of our current line, 2007 Joe Jureivious, 2011 Greg Little, and Ruben Droughns running, and the mutant offspring of Chud and Dabol calling plays. I would also like to see what Ken Dorsey’s numbers would look like with this years O-line, except with a one-eyed Orlando Brown in place of Joe Thomas, and Dennis Northcutt and a healthy K2 catching balls, with Ben Gay running and Brian Robiskie acting as Interim-Interim Coach but with Chris Palmer post runaway train quote calling the plays.
    I would also like to see the hotdog race at the Jake combined with the Running Man in a winner take all battle where the losing sausages are fed to wild pigs. I’d also like to see 1978 Erin Gray show up at my house and convince my wife that its okay that we date.
    Are these things more or less relevant than what youd like to see? That remains to be seen.

  • Hahaha, you stole my line. And other news, McCoy supporters still in denial……

  • Jay

    Reading this just made my day.

  • Natedawg86

    Wrong. The browns offered him a three year deal , 4M, 4.5M and 5M with a 3M bonus. There were offers on the table, he just thought they were too low!!!

  • Natedawg86

    Leave him alone. He got a Colt McCoy Jersey for Xmas last year. He just wants to wear it one time!

  • mgbode

    he needs to take a trip to Austin then. people here still love him (rightfully so, especially considering what they have had since him too)

  • woofersus

    My recollection is that it was 3M total guaranteed, not bonus money. (although we probably never got all the details) IMHO 3M guaranteed, if that’s what it was, wasn’t a serious offer. That’s a one year contract for all intents and purposes, and a pretty low one for a guy who gained nearly 1700 total yards from scrimmage and was the team’s leading receiver after not even being the starter until week 3. Frankly, he was the only reason the team was competitive in a bunch of games. In hindsight, of course, we can see that he hasn’t produced like that since, but at the time it was lowball.

  • Natedawg86

    Should have paid Jerome Harrison, Derek Anderson… He probably didn’t want to sign contract because it was incentive based, meaning he would have to produce. I am fine with that. I was pissed at the time but more at Hillis for not playing. There is a time to hold out and he decided to in the middle of the season. Smart teams dont pay guys big money after 1 solid year. If he would have been producing last year, he may have gotten what he wanted. The organization cannot reward an inseason holdout. You don’t want to start that trend.

  • John charlton

    I don’t think it’s a secret that Hillis put himself before the team. It was very selfish and childish and he hurt his credibility. It’s good he’s gone.