I have to believe there's at least a 17 percent chance that Peyton Hillis thought it was a friend playing a prank on him and said, "Very funny, jerk" before hanging up on the New York Giants the first time they called. Hillis hasn't been a good NFL running back since 2010 (when he was admittedly a great one) and when you get to Week 7 before anyone calls to offer you a tryout, you've probably been wondering whether the NFL Network is still hiring.
But the Giants did call, and of the five running backs they tried out Tuesday they liked Hillis the best, so they're going to sign him to a contract Wednesday and because you've all heard of him you want to know what it means.
My answer: Not much.
Hillis is a Giant today because of injuries to at least three and possibly four running backs they liked better. Starter David Wilson is out with a neck injury. Andre Brown, who was listed as co-starter in training camp, is out until at least Week 10 with a broken leg. Da'Rel Scott, who started one game for them this year, was released with a hamstring injury. Brandon Jacobs, who started last Thursday and rushed for 106 yards, was held out of practice Monday with a hamstring injury of his own. Plain and simple, the Giants needed a healthy body at the running back position, and of the group they culled from the Week 7 scrap heap Hillis was the one they liked the best.
Will he play a role? Could he start? Hey, anything's possible. When Jacobs was signed, and for the first few weeks after, you'd have laughed at the idea of him ever getting 22 carries in a game, as he did in Chicago last week. So never say never. But the list of things that had to go terribly wrong for Jacobs to be elevated to the Giants' starting running back role is long and terrifying, and if you're a Giants fan you're probably not eager to find out what Hillis' path is to the same. He might have something to offer in relief of Jacobs and/or rookie Michael Cox. He might be able to pick up a blitz, which I'm sure Eli Manning thinks would be nice. He might not even be active for Monday night's game against the Vikings; might never play a down for the Giants.
The reason they signed him is because they needed somebody, anybody who knows how to play running back in the NFL. That's it. At this point in an 0-6 season, you're forgiven if you're hoping for more. But as you have been since early September, you're also likely to be disappointed.