7-29-02, 8:45. a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Corey Dillon figures he gained 6,209 yards in the NFL at 90 percent. Now, 239 yards away from breaking James Brooks' record as the Bengals' all-time rusher, he feels his body is finally 100 percent.
That comes courtesy of March's arthroscopic surgery that cleaned out his left knee.
"In the back of my mind I used to think, "I have to be careful with my knee," Dillon said after Sunday's practice. "I don't have that feeling anymore. My legs feel real good. It makes me think I've been playing at 90 percent for the last five years."
Dillon's popularity with the fans is at its apex and reflected every day here at Georgetown College where he is the No. 1 target of the autograph seekers.
He also enjoyed a landslide win as the running back in the bengals.com fan poll selecting the 35th anniversary team. His 70-25 percent edge over Brooks took him by surprise.
"You figure between me and James Brooks it would be pretty much split," Dillon said. "It's an honor to be on the team and I thank them for voting for me. This team has had a lot of great backs." **
EXTRA POINTS:** Rookie free-agent safety Pig Prather ended one of the more curious NFL careers Sunday when he informed the Bengals he had left the team to take care of personal issues. Seventh-year defensive end Jevon Langford showed up Monday morning after spending the weekend also dealing with personal issues and was fined the maxium $5,000 per day by head coach Dick LeBeau for missing the first four days of camp. Also on Monday morning, the Bengals put Prather on the reserve/retired list.
Jim Lippincott, director of football operations, went into Prather's dorm room here early Sunday morning and found only his playbooks stacked on his
dresser. When he reached Prather later in the day in Mississippi, he found out why.
"He said he wanted to go home and take care of his mother and that was the most important thing to him right now," Lippincott said. "He'll probably end up on the reserve/retired list and we would hold on to his rights."
Heading into the 2000 season at Mississippi State, Prather was rated by many as the top player in the country before a knee injury and other ailments took him out of the 2002 draft and he ended up calling the Bengals for a free-agent job.
As for Langford, agent Peter Schaffer said, "The Bengals have bent over backwards to help Jevon deal with this. They've been great about it and he's ready to go in and have a great year.". . .
CB Rodney Heath missed Sunday's practice after wide receiver Michael Westbrook rolled on his ankle on Saturday and it was still tender. LOLB Steve Foley (hip flexor) also sat out Sunday and like Heath, is day-to-day.
LEVI'S COMING:** Believe it or not, Levi Jones says the heat is tougher here than in his native Arizona.
The first-rounder dropped from 310 pounds to 303 on the first day of practice at backup left tackle, but got back up 314 before going out Sunday as trainer Paul Sparling's staff pumped him with a combination of Gatorade and water.
"It's the humidity that is getting me," Jones said. "If you wait to drink until you're thirsty, that's way too late."
Something he's not having trouble with is getting some help from his friends.
"You know what they say," Jones. "It takes a community to grow
a kid," and that's what these guys are doing."
One of the bigger questions facing Jones is if he can handle the strong bull rushers. Everyone knows he's a wonderful athlete, but does he have the sheer strength? On Sunday, offensive line coach Paul Alexander helped out his bid with a few tips.
"When I see a guy coming at me on the bull rush I open up and give him my chest,: Jones said. "But that's giving him too much of a target. I worked today on this I kept my shoulders straight on the line, keeping them square and not giving them a target to hit. Just give them my shoulder. That leaves them in a situation where they have to guess, 'Should I try to go underneath him or around? He's not going to go through me."