Thursday, October 06, 2005

Don't miss Dillon

When Corey Dillon declared himself a changed man before the throngs of media last Super Bowl Sunday, I wasn’t fooled.

When Dillon announced to the Boston media last week, “You won’t hear from me the rest of the year”, I was relieved.

Ah, where had you gone Corey Dillon? A nation turned its lonely eyes to you.

The Patriots were struggling at 2-2. The Bengals were 4-0. Rudi Johnson had rushed for 388 yards. Dillon had 223 yards on 73 carries.

After rushing for more than 1,600 yards last season, Dillon was on pace for fewer than 900 yards. His performance was partly to blame for the Patriots ranking last in the NFL in rushing. Dillon’s solution was to, well, not talk about it.

Big surprise.

If things get any worse, perhaps Dillon will finally make good on his promise to flip burgers rather than play for (insert losing team here).

A headline in a Boston newspaper said Dillon wasn’t going to “run from the slow start”.

Well, from the looks of his stats, Dillon isn’t running anywhere.

“The thing I admire and respect about Corey is that every day, he’s the same guy,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Is this the same Bill Belichik that has been anointed a genius for leading New England to victories in two of the last three Super Bowls?

Couldn’t be.

“Whenever there was any negative situation down there (I think he means in Cincinnati), it always stemmed from not winning,” Dillon said. “It was never me going off. It wasn’t what people would call an attitude. They tied it into me having a negative attitude.”

Dillon rushed for 8,061 yards with the Bengals from 1997 to 2003 making him the franchise’s all-time leader.

He made it clear following the 2003 season that he wanted no part of Marvin Lewis’ grand plan. Lewis had just led the Bengals to their first non-losing season since 1996. It was no longer about Corey, so Corey left.

“People will view me how they want to,” Dillon said. “People didn’t think Jesus was Jesus, so who am I?”

Well, Corey, you’re not Jesus. Let’s just start there.

Running backs are recycled like old newspapers in the NFL; see Denver Broncos. The Bengals had Johnson who proceeded to rush for more than 1,400 yards after Dillon departed.

You’re either a team player or you’re not. There are fair-weather fans. There is no such thing as a fair-weather teammate.

What Dillon fails to understand is that his teammates need his leadership most when the ship is sinking. Such was the case with the Patriots after their 41-17 loss to the Chargers. But, as soon as the cabin springs a leak, Dillon is the first to snag a life boat.

One of Dillon’s more infamous declarations came during a heated contract negotiation when he said he’d rather flip burgers than play for the Bengals. The statement had little to do with losing. It had more to do with Corey.

Dillon the running back: Hall of Famer.

Dillon the person: Farce.

Lewis spent the past three years compiling this year’s Bengals. Throughout the process, he had to weed out a number of talented football players who simply were not willing to buy into his program.

Dillon was one. Takeo Spikes was another.

Lewis and the Bengals regret nothing.

“The best thing for this team was to do what we did,” Lewis said. “We got a pick. (Dillon) didn’t think he could function here. It worked out best for both sides.”

Dillon’s disposition was, perhaps, his best asset. He was an intense competitor with one of the most punishing stiff-arms of any running back in the NFL. He rushed for a then-NFL record 278 yards on October 22, 2000 vs. Denver at Paul Brown Stadium.

But, when Bengals fans see Johnson pedaling on the exercise bike behind the Bengals bench at Paul Brown Stadium, they should be thankful.

Thankful it’s not Dillon.

The undefeated Bengals were the NFL’s media darlings heading into the fifth week of the season.

Meanwhile, Dillon decided he was going to institute a gag order.

Corey, we don’t miss you in the least “down here”.

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