Browns sending mixed signals with Hillis

This month, there were reports that the Browns were prepared to part ways with Peyton Hillis at the end of the season. Today, head coach Pat Shumur said Hillis would be the starting running back when he's healthy, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

This is sending mixed signals. Actually, it makes little sense considering Hillis' behavior this year.

He went public over his lack of a contract, missed a game because of strep throat on the advice of his agent, failed to show up for a scheduled appearance at a Halloween party for children and got married in Arkansas instead of getting treatment at the Browns facility for his injured hamstring. There was also a report three weeks ago on Yahoo! Sports that said eight veteran players summoned Hillis for "an intervention-style, air-clearing session designed to restore his focus."

Do the Browns need more reasons to move on? Cleveland would send the wrong message by going back to Hillis after these antics.

Hillis has missed the past five games after injuring his hamstring. He had been ruled out by Shurmur early in the week, but he participated in team drills today and is now considered a game-time decision.

"It's looking very positive for this game," Hillis told The Plain Dealer. "We're all shooting for this Sunday. . . . I'm working my best to get out there, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity. I'm eager and excited about it."

For the Browns, there should be no decision. The Browns need to find out whether Montario Hardesty, a second-round pick in 2010, can be the featured back. The only reasons you would start Hillis are because you think he can dramatically turn around the season for the 4-6 Browns or you believe he still has a future in Cleveland.

Maybe Hillis has changed. Or maybe the Browns' stance on him has changed. Either way, this is another unexpected twist in a drama-filled season for Hillis and the Browns.