Healthy Hillis adds another dynamic to division battle

He's only played in five games this season because of a hamstring injury, strep throat and, depending on who you talk to, possible contract issues. But Peyton Hillis appears to be healthy and at least somewhat content with his standing in Cleveland for now, and the Browns' power running back is a guy the Ravens will need to keep tabs on come Sunday.

Hillis returned to the Browns' lineup last weekend after missing the previous five games with a bad hamstring, and he showed a pretty decent burst against the Bengals after missing all that time, averaging 3.4 yards per carry on 19 attempts. This week, Hillis has had a full practice each of the last two days, and says he feels his hamstring is improving.

At 6-foot-1, 240 lbs., Hillis packs quite a punch, and guys on the Ravens' defense know first-hand how tough it will be to wrestle him down on Sunday.

Peyton_Hillis-sidebar.jpg"He's a power runner," safety Ed Reed said. "It reminds me of Tampa Bay when they had (fullback Mike) Alstott in there. He kind of looks the same. That's what you're going to get with Peyton. He's a hell of a back. I know he's been hurt with that hamstring, and that's tough on a big guy like that.

"It definitely slows him down (but) he looks like he's 100 percent now after watching him in the Cincinnati game. We know we have a task with tackling that guy. He's a hassle, but we're definitely prepared enough for the task."

Hillis had a huge day against the Ravens' defense last September, rushing for 144 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and making him the last back to top the 120-yard mark in a game against Baltimore since the Vikings' Adrian Peterson did it back in October of 2009.

The next time the Ravens and Browns squared off, however, the Ravens focused on gang-tackling Hillis and held the bruising back to just 35 rushing yards on 12 carries.

"We put that (first game) behind us," defensive end Cory Redding said. "Of course, you will go back and look at those games and see what hurt us - this, that and the other - just to get refreshed about how he runs and the blocking schemes, all that kind of stuff. But, for the most part, this is a new day, man, and a new era. (He is) the same guy, same team, and you just go out there and do it one more time."

Over the last two weeks, the Browns have really focused on their running game, and they've had a lot of success with their ground attack. They've rushed for an average of 141 yards their last two times out, and have relied not just on Hillis, but also reserve backs Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya to carry some of the load.

Now that Hillis is back closer to full strength, he said he feels like the Browns' running game will only improve.

"I think I can make a huge difference," Hillis said. "Including last game, I've only played (five) games all year, so I haven't been out there too much, but I feel like when I get out there I can produce and help the team win."

"They've really beefed that thing up," head coach John Harbaugh said of Cleveland's rushing attack. "They've got three really game-changers at running back. (They've got) a big physical offensive line, run all the basic schemes, really similar to what they did last year, as a matter of fact. So it will be tough for us."

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