It was revealed this week that Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis, on the advice of his agent, decided to take himself out of the Browns' Week 3 match-up against the Miami Dolphins because of the lingering effects of strep throat. The Browns did end up beating the Dolphins by a slim margin (17-16) without Hillis thanks to Montario Hardesty's 67 yards rushing and three catches for 19 yards. I understand that Hardesty had a bad case of the "sniffles" but was able to forge on through the adversity.
Agent Kennard McGuire's reasoning was that he could jeopardize his career by not playing at 100 percent. Really?! That might jeopardize his career more than backing out of an important game because of a sore throat?!
Makes you wonder two things:
• What do you think Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren thinks of Hillis now? He might want to consider Hillis' toughness and commitment to the team before he renegotiates Hillis' contract for the long term.
• How far down the "slippery slope" have we slid when a 6-foot-2, 250-pound, bruising running back voluntarily takes himself out of a game because of a "scratchy throat."
It seems to me that part of the appeal of professional football is the "toughness" aspect of the game. It's a game that is played rain or shine, in extreme heat and cold, by tough guys who will make sacrifices in order to play. As for the "slippery slope", it started with the term "player safety."
Then there were all sorts of penalties and fines for who you hit and how you hit them. Then the rigors of "double-day" practices and offseason workouts were taken away. Now, we've landed on players taking themselves out of games for reasons that most of us wouldn't have missed a day of Kindergarten over.
Before a Sunday night game against the Oakland Raiders back in 1989, I raced between my bed and the toilet with a 102-degree temperature and the chills from the flu. My only concern was how I was going to avoid soiling myself on the field in front of millions of people in "super-slow motion" instant replay. I played the game, of course, and never considered not playing.
In the 100 or so games that I played in throughout my career, that incident ranks near the bottom on the "adversity scale." I've played games with digits hanging on by the skin, broken toes, cracked ribs and knees that were in need of surgical repair.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Paul Moyer, my former teammate and current colleague on the Seahawks pre- and post-game show. If you are squeamish, please stop reading now! I guarantee you that any man will instinctively cross his legs upon reading this.
Paul suffered a ruptured testicle (squished) during a game and did not tell the trainers about it until the end of the game. Why? Because he wanted to play and knew that they would take him out of the game. He wanted to play.
Now I should mention that since then, Paul played in many more games, married a beautiful Sea Gal and popped out two of the most beautiful kids you've ever seen. But can you imagine a conversation between Moyer and Hillis?
Hillis: "Yeah, football is a tough game. I almost played in a game once because I had a sore throat."
Moyer: "I was kneed in the crotch and played an entire game with a testicle that was the size of a grapefruit. Let me buy you a beer, tough guy."