After rushing for 1,177 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns in 2010, Hillis campaigned for a long-term contract with the Browns. When it was not forthcoming, he began missing games with various ailments, including a hamstring injury and, most memorably, a bout of strep throat.
He rushed for just 587 yards and three touchdowns in 2011, and was allowed to become a free agent.
Thomas, however, wasn't willing to forget what he perceived to be selfish actions. Among his comments:
• "He crippled our offense. … To have Peyton going through a contract dispute and basically refusing to play, it was a big distraction."
• "All he cared about [one year] was winning, and then all of a sudden the next year, all he cared about was trying to get his new contract."
• I think it was better for both sides [he left]. At that point, the situation with him here was toxic … and players didn't want him here.
Hillis thought his ex-teammate should let it go, but not without getting in a few digs of his own:
• "Joe Thomas, he can have his opinions all he wants. It's kind of like a crazy ex-girlfriend, you know? It's been over a year. Get over it."
• "I guess when you get paid over $100 million by one team, it's kind of easy to point the finger at another guy and hate on him for trying to get another contract."