Peyton Hillis denies retirement thoughts

Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis denies that he considered retirement and a career with the CIA during his injury-shortened 2011 season.

Hillis told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer on Friday that he never told his coaches he was considering ending his career.

"I never one time mentioned anything to any coach about retirement or joining the CIA or anything like that. It's 100 percent false," Hillis told the paper.

Team sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Thursday that throughout the past season, Hillis wavered about whether he wanted to continue playing football, and even considered joining the CIA.

It is unclear if he actually pursued a career with the CIA.

The sources said that Hillis told Browns coaches as recently as the end of the season that he was contemplating retirement, though it now looks as if he will continue playing.

Hillis began his second season in Cleveland atop the pro football world. Following a breakout year with the Browns, he won a nationwide fan vote to be the cover figure for "Madden NFL 12," the best-selling video game that has earned a reputation for dooming any player who graces its jacket.

He fell victim to the "Madden curse" in a disappointing 2011 season that was marked by his quarrel with Browns management over a new contract; his controversial decision to sit out a game with strep throat on the advice of his agent; a nagging hamstring injury that caused him to miss five straight games; and his awkward rapport with teammates.

Hillis, 26, finished with 587 yards rushing, passing the 100-yard mark in just one game, a season after rushing for a career-best 1,177 yards.

The 6-foot-2, 250-pound bruising back is slated for unrestricted free agency March 13. Cleveland already has confirmed that it will use its franchise tag on kicker Phil Dawson.

In Friday's interview with The Plain Dealer, Hillis said he would take a hometown discount to remain in Cleveland.

"I've always loved this city, and I still do love it, and I still want to play for the Cleveland Browns," Hillis told the paper. "I'm not sure who wants me there and who doesn't want me there. It's out of my hands at this point. They've said they might want to re-sign me. If I was this horrible person, if I wasn't tough and if I was that big of a mental case, why would they still want to sign me?"

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.