BEREA, Ohio -- Peyton Hillis' bumpy season has hit another pothole.
Hillis did not practice Thursday, one day after he returned from a strained left hamstring that kept him out of last Sunday's game. On Wednesday, Hillis practiced for the first time since getting hurt in the Browns' Oct. 16 game at Oakland.
Browns coach Pat Shurmur described Hillis as being a "little sore" and said the team will "back him down" as it prepares for Sunday's game at San Francisco. Shurmur says he's hopeful Hillis, whose messy contract situation and injuries have sabotaged his second season with Cleveland, will be able to play against the 49ers.
Hillis had hoped to put the distractions behind him and Wednesday said he was confident there was still time for him to have a big season. He rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, endearing him to Cleveland's fans and earning him the cover of the Madden 12 video game.
Shurmur believes Hillis, who vowed not to talk about his contract status again this season, is staying positive despite the setbacks.
"I think he's hanging in there, taking this thing day to day, trying to get healthy. I don't sense frustration," Shurmur said.
Hillis was not available for interviews after Thursday's indoor practice. He came into the Browns' locker room briefly before leaving.
If Hillis can't play Sunday, Montario Hardesty will start in his place for the second straight game. Hardesty started for Hillis last week against Seattle and rushed for a career-high 95 yards on 33 carries. It was a heavy workload for the second-year back, who missed his rookie season following knee surgery.
Hardesty said he'll be ready if Hillis can't go.
"I'm just going out, getting my body back from last game," Hardesty said. "I'm good now, so I'm preparing, pressing out things, going out and catching balls and run our plays and just prepare for this week like I'm the guy."
Browns kicker Phil Dawson, who made two field goals beyond 50 yards last week despite a badly bruised right thigh, said he was able to do all his kicking in practice. Dawson expects to play Sunday.
Starting wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and tight end Benjamin Watson were kept out of practice for a second straight day as they continue to recover from concussions sustained last week. Their status for this week's game against the 49ers is uncertain.
Massaquoi and Watson have not been permitted to speak with the media since being hurt.
Right guard Shawn Lauvao was back at practice after missing one day with a knee injury.