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Broncos' Ronnie Hillman burdened by fumble-itis

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Unless something changes, Ronnie Hillman's Denver uniform Sunday will be little more than a sideline pass at the Super Bowl.

And there is no guarantee he'll even get to wear it.

Hillman, the former La Habra and San Diego State star, is at the back of the line in the Denver backfield these days.

The reason is that he's bidding for a bobblehead in exactly the wrong way. Fumbling problems and the arrival of Wisconsin rookie Montee Ball rendered him inactive for both Broncos playoff games in their march to the AFC title.

"It's all about timing," he said. "Obviously it has been frustrating. Montee and Knowshon (Moreno) are playing great right now."

Hillman carried only 55 times in the 10 games he played. He gained 218 yards and was on the receiving end of only four of Peyton Manning's 450 completions.

This came after a productive rookie season, when Hillman rushed for 83 yards in Denver's playoff loss to Baltimore. Hillman carried 85 times for the season, gaining 330 yards.

"You just stay with the process," he said. "You wait for your time again. But it's hard to get the coaches' trust when you don't get a chance to play."

The key fumble came in a 39-33 Game 7 loss at Indianapolis, Denver's first loss of the season. Hillman fumbled away a scoring chance on the Colts 3-yard-line with 3:15 left. A touchdown would have cut Indy's lead to two points.

Hillman also fumbled in an 40-10 exhibition loss to Seattle, and Brandon Browner returned it 106 yards for a touchdown.

It's strange because Hillman was the embodiment of ball security during much of his San Diego State career. At one point he had handled the ball 353 consecutive games without giving it up.

Ball, from Wisconsin, also had fumbling issues after a long record of sturdy hands at Wisconsin. But Ball solved those issues and has rushed for 559 yards, second on the team to Moreno's 1,038.

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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