He’s also too proud to end his season – and possibly career -- on an injury.
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“My mindset was to get back on the field,” Hillis said. “Like I’ve said earlier, it could be my last game, so I’m not going to go out with a concussion. I’m here and wanting to play and hoping that I do well.”
With the Giants eliminated from the playoffs, what comes after this weekend’s finale against the Washington Redskins is unknown for Hillis.
The 27-year-old already thought his career was over once this season. He was hunting on a ranch in Tennessee when the Giants called and eventually signed him in the middle of October. Five days later, he rushed 18 times and scored a touchdown as a starter in the Giants’ first victory of the season against the Minnesota Vikings.
Since then, Hillis has played intermittently in five of the last eight games as injuries and the return of fellow running back Andre Brown factored into his production. Playing on a week-to-week basis, Hillis has tallied 56 carries for 191 yards and two touchdowns this season. He also has 12 receptions for 90 yards.
“For the games that I wasn’t dressing, I was even thinking, ‘OK, it may happen that I’m going to get cut so just expect it,’” Hillis said. “But, you know, also in this game there are injuries. Everybody can get hurt week to week, so it can be your turn at any time.”
That has certainly been true this year for the Giants, who have running backs Brandon Jacobs and David Wilson and fullback Henry Hynoski all on injured reserve.
But the Giants received good news on that front today when Brown also returned to practice after going through the NFL’s concussion protocol. That likely makes him, Hillis, and rookie Michael Cox the healthy running backs on the field for Sunday.
“It seems like I’ve had opportunities here,” Hillis said. “I’m excited that this week I may have a lot of opportunities, and I haven’t had that since the first couple weeks I got here. I’m really looking forward to that, and I feel like for the first time my body has finally gotten back and I feel good.”
These kinds of opportunities make or break careers, which Hillis has seen from both sides.
After gaining his first NFL experience with the Broncos, he made his big splash with the Browns in 2010 when he rushed for 1,000 yards and was on the cover of the Madden NFL ‘12 video game. After that, he played nine more games in Cleveland and two with the Chiefs before a two-month stint with the Buccaneers to start this season.
“I think this is different this year because when I came here, when I came to this organization, the people here were very loving with open arms,” Hillis said. “It’s very professional here. When you get to know the guys, you get to know the coaches, you want to win for them. You know how good of a team you have, but things haven’t exactly rolled our way this year. But you want to end the season with a win. You want to leave a good taste in your mouth. That’s what I’m hoping for and that’s what I hope for the team.”
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