There were probably a dozen or so things Jeremy Hill would have rather been doing than answering questions about the darkest moment of his career, but the Cincinnati Bengals running back made no attempt to escape the group of reporters around his locker Monday afternoon.
Expanding on what he told the Dayton Daily News two weeks ago, Hill spent more than 20 minutes talking about his fumble at the end of the wild-card playoff loss to Pittsburgh and the backlash that ensued.
“A little adversity never hurt anybody,” he said. “The more you try to run from it, the more it’s going to bite you in the butt. I’m not running from it. The negativity and all that stuff is part of football. I’m going to continue to face it and wait for my opportunity to overcome that.”
As difficult as the hours, days and even weeks were after he fumbled at the Pittsburgh 12 with 1:23 remaining and the Bengals leading 16-15, Hill said he never tried to avoid Twitter or the television, even though replays of the fumble and his tormented reaction as the Steelers drove for the game-winning score seemed to play on an endless loop.
“You can’t hide,” he said. “You have to face the music and keep getting better.”
There actually hasn’t been much music to face in the literal sense for Hill, who has stayed in Cincinnati this offseason to work out. While the criticism has been harsh on social media, he hasn’t heard a peep when he’s been out and about in town.
“I’ve never had someone come up to me and say something negative, which is surprising,” he said. “I would think someone would by now. I’m sure it will happen eventually.”
Hill said the most poignant words he heard came in a conversation with Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk.
“I talked to him right after the game, and him saying ‘that play does not define you,’ that’s what I took the most from it,” Hill said. “I know who I am as a runner and as a player. I definitely can’t let that play define me.
“One moment you’re thinking you’re winning and advancing in the playoffs, and the next minute you’re at home and your season is over,” he said. “It was a roller coaster of emotions. I really can’t put into words everything I was feeling at that time, but if anything it’s motivated me and helped me as a player. And it will continue to help me for the rest of my career.”
While Hill isn’t reluctant to talk about the fumble, he said he knows nothing he says at this point matters.
“Everyone wants the big quote and all that stuff, but talk is talk,” he said. “You can talk and make promises and all this, but if you don’t go out on the field and back it up, it means nothing. This is cool. I’m answering your questions. But to me that’s not really who I am. I’m not too much of a talker. I’d rather go out there and play.
“It can only go up from here,” he added. “That’s how I’m looking at it. People are waiting for me to fumble now. I know that. Everyone knows it. I’ll embrace it. I’ll actually enjoy it.”
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