EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's hard to believe Peyton Hillis expected the New York Giants to call. When he was sitting around earlier this year wondering who'd give him his next shot, the veteran running back wasn't thinking about a team that had a 2012 first-round pick, David Wilson, as its starter and a guy it liked in Andre Brown listed as Wilson's co-starter. But Hillis says he makes it a point not to be surprised.
"In my career, I've found that anything can happen," Hillis said. "I'm assuming that here they didn't expect to be 0-6 either."
They are, of course, and running-back injuries have been one of the major storylines in the Giants' lost season. So they signed Hillis on Wednesday to see if he can help. Brandon Jacobs rushed for 106 yards on 22 carries in last week's loss to Chicago, but they're thin at the position and think Hillis can add depth and maybe even contribute as a starter at some point if not right away.
"He's a bigger back. He caught the ball very well in the workout. He's a veteran football player," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We know he can handle the first-down and second-down stuff, and hopefully he won't be too hard-pressed to pick up the third-down stuff as well."
Coughlin mentioned that Hillis knew the Giants' offense and its terminology because earlier this year he was in Tampa Bay, where former Giants assistant coach Mike Sullivan is the offensive coordinator. But what he said about the "third-down stuff" is likely code for pass protection, an area in which Giants running backs have struggled significantly this season.
Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010 as the lead back for the Cleveland Browns. Injuries hampered him the following year, and he signed with the Chiefs for the 2012 season. He said he believes the Chiefs signed him as insurance for a Jamaal Charles injury that never happened, and that being stuck behind Charles last year and the Buccaneers' Doug Martin earlier this season deprived him of an opportunity to show that he can still play. At age 27, he believes he has that opportunity now with the Giants.
"I think that, as soon as I get the playbook down, they'll let me play," Hillis said. "And I'm really looking forward to it, because I think I can help this team."
In the Week 6 loss to the Bears, the Giants got positive contributions from Jacobs, linebacker Jon Beason and fullback John Conner, each of whom is an in-season addition. Conner's presence as a blocking fullback in place of the injured Henry Hynoski should be a benefit to Hillis, Jacobs or whichever back carries the ball for the Giants on Monday.