Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis, center, runs the ball during practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Berea, Ohio Monday, Aug. 29, 2011. Hillis, who appears on the cover, Madden 12, passed out advance copies of the popular football video game, in Cleveland's locker room.
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BEREA, Ohio — The Madden 12 cover boy isn't much of a gamer.
Peyton Hillis prefers bashing people for real.
"I was never a very big video guy, but it's kind of cool," Hillis said. "I wouldn't say it's one of my hobbies, no."
Already a powerful, punishing force on the field, Hillis is about to burst into living rooms across the country. Your TV may never be the same.
The Browns' star running back is gracing the cover of Madden 12, the immensely popular video game which will be released to the public on Tuesday. Hillis passed out advance copies of the game to his grateful teammates, who see his national exposure as a positive for the Browns.
"That's our boy," safety Mike Adams said. "For him to get up there on the cover is great for all of us."
Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards in 2010, an unexpected breakout season for the 25-year-old who arrived from Denver in the trade for quarterback Brady Quinn. Hillis was typically low-key and humble about gracing the cover, which he earned by beating out Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick in a nationwide vote of over 16 million fans.
"It's exciting," Hillis said after practice Monday. "I've been very blessed. I'm kind of speechless at times. I'm grateful, but it's time to move on."
Hillis says he's not worried about the so-called Madden Curse, which is like the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx. Players who have been on the Madden cover have had a drop in performance the next season or been injured. He's also ignoring outside skeptics who don't believe he can match last season's production.
"I really don't care what people think," Hillis said. "I'm a guy who is going to go out there and do his best, and I'm a guy who has always gone out there and proved people wrong. I'm not worried about it and I've never been worried about a curse. I'm just going to go out and do my best."
With the Browns signing left Pro Bowl offensive tackle Joe Thomas to a seven-year, $84 million contract extension last week, it would figure that Hillis would be next in line for a new deal. He's heading into the final year of a contract that will pay him just $555,000 this season.
Hillis isn't worried about anything but playing football.
"Whenever it is my time and whenever the Browns feel like they want to take care of me, they will," he said. "I'm going to go over here and do my best and prove myself to them because this is a business and you still got to produce every day and every year as much as you can. That's going to be my responsibility and my outlook from here on out."
On Sunday, Hillis showed up with boxes filled with the new Madden video and handed them off in the locker room. He also gave a copy to first-year Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who admitted he's not much of a "gamer" either and has never played Madden. Shurmur said his teenage son, Kyle, is somewhat of an expert.
"I think he's interested to see what I look like in the game too," Shurmur joked.
Safety T.J. Ward hasn't had a chance to play the new version of Madden yet. But once he's plugged in, Ward said the first thing he'll do is check out his virtual self.
"That's what everyone does," he said. "You check your version first and if that game doesn't have you up to par, you're going to be like, 'Ah, man, this isn't right.' Everyone's goal as a kid is to not only make it to the league, but to be on Madden."
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