Saturday, May 3, 2003

Dillon's presence brings positive vibes


Bengals' new atmosphere has him enthused

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The spotlight shines brightest on Corey Dillon of all Bengals players.

PHOTO GALLERY

Photos of Friday's practice
His all-star status is why Dillon's absence from last month's minicamp - he was the only player under contract to miss the voluntary practices - was a national story.

Dillon was in camp Friday for the start of the year's second voluntary minicamp.

On the field, the seventh-year pro looked to be in midseason form, moving deftly through traffic as a ball carrier and putting a drop-dead move on middle linebacker Kevin Hardy as a pass receiver, leading to a touchdown.

Off the field, Dillon proved to be just as graceful.

Speaking to newspaper reporters for the first time since October, Dillon explained his absence and expressed support for coach Marvin Lewis.

"It was just miscommunication that me and Marvin discussed," Dillon said as Lewis watched and listened from the back of the interview room.

"On my part, I should have communicated a little bit better, but I was just spending time with my family. I told him kind of late and kind of left him hanging ... I take full responsibility for doing that. But in the future, we will handle it in the proper way.

"It was a mishap on my part. I didn't mean for it to turn into a big situation. It was small. It was minor. But it turned into something major."

Asked for his thoughts on playing for Lewis, Dillon said, "Great coach, my man."

Lewis, leaning against a wall, said, "I should leave."

"He's right there," Dillon said. "That's my guy."

Dillon, a three-time Pro Bowl player, never has been entirely comfortable with the glare of stardom.

"I'm not really concerned about it," he said of his high profile. "I'm going to continue to just to be me and try to do things the right way. I take the good with the bad, so that's how I approach it."

Dillon, who rushed for 7,520 yards in six seasons, said he is more enthused about the team's prospects for success than at any time in his career. The Bengals have won just 26 of 96 games since Dillon was drafted in the second round in 1997.

"Everything from head to toe," he said of what impresses him about Lewis' regime. "He's just doing a great job. From draft picks, to the (remodeled) weight room, just the way the atmosphere around here is very different. I've been here for six years, going on seven. It's a big difference."

Dillon said his presence at camp was important.

Lewis agreed.

"Obviously, Corey is one of our best players, so him being here and his presence here is a good thing for our football team," Lewis said.

"He's got to begin to kind of put himself in the offense again and get around his teammates and get moving forward. He's a good player and a good positive influence, he can help some of the younger players."

Dillon has spent most of the offseason in Los Angeles with his family. The team's first draft pick this year, quarterback Carson Palmer, is an Orange County resident.

Dillon and Palmer had spoken prior to minicamp.

"He can help Carson. He's had a good conversation with Carson prior to getting here," Lewis said of Dillon.

Starting quarterback Jon Kitna said no player questioned Dillon or his reasons for missing the first minicamp.

"He has been ready every year at the start of the year. He never gets hurt," Kitna said. "You know what you're going to get out him.

""Did we say, 'Corey's not here?' Yeah. Does it mean we feel like he's turning his back on the team? Not at all."

Dillon repeated his ultimate goal.

"The number one objective on my list is just winning the Super Bowl," he said. "That's what I'm shooting for. There's nothing I wouldn't do to get there. That's why I'm here. I'm here working hard just trying to reach my dreams."

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E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com




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