EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** The Giants today filled the vacancy on their roster and in their offensive backfield by signing former 1,000-yard rusher Peyton Hillis.
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"I'm coming in with an open heart and open mind," Hillis said, "and I'm looking to do whatever the coaching staff needs me to do to help this team win."
The Giants return to action Monday night at home against the Minnesota Vikings. Hillis is hoping he learns enough of the offense to contribute in the game.
"From what I understand, a lot of the terminology is the same as it was in Tampa, and so it may be a quick process," Hillis said. "Maybe, maybe not. We'll see.
"A lot of the plays are the same. It's just different terminology. As long as you get the terminology down, you'll be fine. Here though, it seems like it's the same as Tampa's, so it shouldn't be that big of a (transition)."
Hillis has played in 65 games with 33 starts. His career totals include 597 rushing attempts for 2,470 yards (4.1-yard avg.) and 21 touchdowns. Hillis' longest run was a 48-yarder. He has also caught 111 passes for 867 yards (7.8-yard avg.) and three touchdowns. Hillis has returned 10 kickoffs and thrown three passes, completing one for 13 yards.
In 2010, Hillis had his best season while playing for Cleveland. He played in all 16 games for the only time in his career with 14 starts and rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns on 270 carries. Hillis rushed for a career-high 184 yards vs. New England on Nov. 7 of that season. He also had a career-high 61 receptions for 477 yards and two scores. Hillis is the only player in Browns history to rush for 1,000 yards, catch 50 passes and score 10 touchdowns in a season.
He believes he can return to his form of 2010.
"I firmly believe I never had too much of an opportunity after I left Cleveland," Hillis said. "I was behind Jamaal Charles at Kansas City. I didn't get too much playing time. I felt when I got in I did well, and then I was in Tampa and never really got to touch the field because of Doug Martin. He's pretty good. I'm just here to do whatever I can to help the team win. I think that this is a good team that can turn it around."
Hillis entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft choice from Arkansas by the Broncos (227th overall selection) in 2008. In two years in Denver he played in 26 games with eight starts and rushed for 397 yards and six scores and added 18 catches for 198 yards and a touchdown.
On March 10, 2010, Hillis was traded from Denver to Cleveland, where he also played two seasons. In 2011, he had 161 rushing attempts for 587 yards and three touchdowns and caught 22 passes for 130 yards.
Hillis signed with the Chiefs on March 15, 2012 and in his only season in Kansas City played in 13 games with two starts and rushed for 309 yards and a touchdown on 85 carries. He added 10 receptions for 62 yards for a Chiefs team that finished 2-14.
"It was a very long year and going through seasons like that for coaches and players is not easy," Hillis said. "We had a lot of other issues off the field and that compounded the situation, but you've got to look at every year as a new time and new place to start, and I think we're looking forward to that now."
Hillis joined the Buccaneers on July 24. He played in all four preseason games and had 38 carries for 147 yards (3.9-yard avg.) with a long run of 17 yards. Hillis did not play in a regular-season game and was released on Sept. 21, a transaction he hasn't dwelled on.
"I came at peace with myself and my situation long ago," Hillis said. "All I can do is what I can right now, so I can't look in the past. I've got to keep on going."
A native of Conway, Ark., Hillis played in 44 games with 29 starts at his home state university. He totaled 2,624 all-purpose yards and scored 23 touchdowns.
The Giants added Hillis because their backfield situation is unsettled. Starter David Wilson has a neck injury and a timetable for his return has not been determined. Brandon Jacobs suffered a hamstring injury while rushing for 106 yards in Chicago last week. He didn't practice Monday, though Tom Coughlin said he expected Jacobs to be on the field when the Giants return to work tomorrow. Da'Rel Scott, re-signed last week, was waived/injured yesterday after hurting his hamstring vs. the Bears. The only healthy back at practice Monday was rookie seventh-round draft choice Michael Cox.
*The Giants also added running back Jeremy Wright to their practice squad. The 5-10, 199-pounder from Louisville was with the Giants for three weeks in May. He also played in two preseason games during a 10-day stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers in August.