December 6, 2012 at 1:36 AM EST - Updated June 28 at 4:30 PM
In 2010, Peyton Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. His from-outta-nowhere performance earned him the Madden cover and in typical Madden-curse fashion, Hillis' world promptly crumbled around him.
His productivity took a nose dive, people questioned whether his unwillingness to play was tied to contract negotiations, and the PR hit he took from not showing up to a children's charity event only made things worse.
It wasn't surprising when the Browns opted to let Hillis walk in the offseason. He ended up in Kansas City, where he's rushed 59 times for 193 yards (3.3 YPC). On Sunday, the Chiefs face the Browns, and on Wednesday, left tackle Joe Thomas was asked about Hillis' time in Cleveland.
"I think it was better for both sides (he left)," Thomas said via CBSSports.com's Marty Gitlin. "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."
So what happened? In Thomas' estimation, it was that new deal Hillis was angling for.
"It was just the fact, he decided his contract was more important than coming out and playing and helping his team win," Thomas continued, "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.
"[Hillis] 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."
There's more, of course. If a school-yard kickball game broke out (seems unlikely, but stick with us), nobody would've picked Hillis.
"He wasn't real popular around here the way he went about his business," Thomas said during training camp. "Not that they didn't like him as a person, but just the way he hurt the team from not coming to play."
But unlike, say, Titus Young, who appears to be the same person now that he was when he came out of college, Hillis' demeanor changed when it became about getting paid.
"… He was everything people knew about him: hard-working, blue-collar tough," Thomas said. "The next year all he cared about was trying to get his new contract. I think he was getting poor guidance on how to go about his business. The way he chose it really hurt the team."