NFL backs touch down in Glendale

GLENDALE — Peyton Hillis and Ray Rice both took advantage of some down time while the NFL lockout was still in effect and paid a visit to Glendale Studios to shoot a commercial for RipFire XCELERATE, a pre-workout supplement, on Thursday.

Normally, Hillis and Rice would be ramping up for NFL training camp with their respective teams, the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, but the lockout threw a shadow of doubt over when teams will be able to get back to work on the football field.

Both players fielded a number of questions on the lockout and how it's impacted them and their teams just hours before the NFL owners approved a new labor agreement, which could signal the beginning of the end of the lockout, at about 4 p.m. Thursday.

"It's positive talk [around the lockout], which is good," said Hillis, the Browns' 25-year old running back. "It's a lot better than it was in the first couple of months. We're just going to sit back, cross our fingers and dot our 'I's and hope everything works out okay."

A report from ESPN's John Clayton on Thursday indicated the NFL player representatives were set to vote on the matter Thursday night, as well. If approved, as expected, training camp would most likely be opened on Aug. 1, according to Clayton.

"It looks like we are getting a deal done," said Rice, a 24-year old running back with the Ravens. "I am just excited to be getting back to work."

After being swamped with countless questions about the lockout over the past few months, Hillis admitted he's a little sick of the subject.

"You have no answers to it," Hillis said. "Everyone is asking you, 'Do you know this, do you know that' and you just feel helpless because you really don't know too much about it."

Both players took advantage of some down time they normally wouldn't have during the lockout, whether they spent it with family or shooting commercials. The free time hasn't been used for all fun and games, though.

"As players, we have to control what we can control and that's staying in shape, staying out of trouble while you have that free time and staying in shape again because that's the main thing," Rice said. "Football is one of those things where if it's one step too late the play is broken."

Rice and Hillis were both drafted in 2008, by the Ravens and Denver Broncos, respectively. Rice was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2009 and has rushed for more than 3,000 yards in three NFL seasons. Hillis has rushed for 1,574 yards, most of them coming last year when he ran for 1,177 yards with the Browns.

RipFire's day-long shoot brought the two very different players and people together on the same team, Rice said.

"We come from two different backgrounds to endorse the same product," said Rice, a quick, elusive runner. "We're two different style of running backs, him being the big guy and me being the little guy."

Rice said becoming a spokesman for RipFire was a "marketing opportunity" for him.

"For young guys like me and Peyton, we are just happy for the opportunity," he said.

Hillis — a bruising, between-the-tackles runner — said his acting skills are "terrible," but he still enjoyed shooting the commercial.

"You have to have a fun time doing it," he said. "It's a short career, you can be here today and gone tomorrow so you need to enjoy the time you have no matter what it is — acting or playing football — because one day it will be gone."

It's only three years into Hillis' football career and he's already describing it as "up and down." He was drafted in the seventh round and had a remarkable rookie year derailed by a season-ending injury. He was traded to the Browns before the 2010 season and had to work his way to the top of the depth chart like he did in Denver.

Hillis will come into the 2011 campaign cemented as a fan favorite and one of the NFL's biggest stars after being voted the cover athlete for this season's "Madden" video game. Hillis was chosen in April through an ESPN online tournament.

"It's a tremendous accomplishment and a tremendous blessing," Hillis said. "I'm going to take it with a grain of salt, thank my fans that put me on there and move on and get ready for the season."

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