Ten days ago, Peyton Hillis was coaching high school football in Tennessee and coming to grips with the fact that his NFL life looked to be over. Sunday in Philadelphia, he likely will start at running back for the Giants for the second straight game.
Hillis, 27, released by Tampa Bay on Sept. 21, had been a Giant for less than a week when he started in the Giants' 23-7 victory over Minnesota on Monday night. The 6-2, 250-pound running back had 18 carries for 36 yards and caught five passes for 45 yards despite having only a few days to look over the Giants' playbook.
"It was shocking and surreal at the same time," Hillis said Friday. "A week ago, I wasn't doing anything and then I was on 'Monday Night Football' carrying the ball."
Shocking and surreal also are good words to describe the Giants' season as they have lost running back after running back to injuries.
Brandon Jacobs is listed as doubtful for the Eagles game with a pulled left hamstring. They also have been without Andre Brown (broken left leg), David Wilson (spinal stenosis) and Da'Rel Scott (right hamstring). That basically leaves only Hillis and Michael Cox, an untested seventh-round rookie, to carry the ball along with fullback John Conner.
"The two guys that carried the load a week ago will have to do it [again] to a certain extent," coach Tom Coughlin said.
Cox, who had never carried the ball in an NFL game, did so 11 times for 23 yards on Monday.
"I definitely feel my confidence rising a little bit having more experience and knowing what it's like already," Cox said.
This could be the last opportunity for both players to solidify roster spots on the team. The Giants have a bye the week after, and Brown is expected to return from short-term injured reserve after that.
Though Hillis' numbers were far from gaudy Monday night, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride was impressed by the toughness he brought to the game.
"Not everybody could have done what he did," Gilbride said. "I think the thing that was really impressive was the physicality that he brought to the game. He turned north-south on a couple of those catches. That's something we need as an offense. It's nice to [have] finesse. It's nice to throw the ball, but it's nice to show that physical prowess, too."
It's also nice to get an unexpected chance to show that prowess.
Said Hillis: "I'm here, I want to contribute, I want to help this team win, and no matter what the results are in the end, I'm happy to be here."
Notes & quotes: The Eagles listed quarterback Michael Vick as probable and he is expected to start against the Giants. Vick missed the last two games after injuring his left hamstring in the first half of a win over the Giants . . . Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers (knee) and defensive back Jayron Hosley are listed as doubtful . . . Defensive back Corey Webster (groin) and tight end Adrien Robinson (foot) are questionable.