BY GEOFF HOBSON
Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon is focused on camp.
But not Bengals training camp, which starts July 21. It's his own camp for inner-city children that he'll stage this Saturday morning at Memorial Stadium in his hometown of Seattle for the third straight year.
"It's free," Dillon says. "When I started this thing, no matter what happened, I wanted to keep it free. I know there are kids out there who wanted to play, but couldn't afford it."
This may be his only football for awhile. He isn't commenting on his contract stalemate with the Bengals, but it's clear he intends to sit out the first 10 games of the season if it can't be resolved in the next two weeks.
So at the moment, he's working on his opening remarks for Saturday and that's easy enough to do. Dillon has lived it, not just walked it, or talked it. He'll speak to about 120 children much like he was 10 or so years ago. Not exactly poverty-stricken, but not blessed with all the things a kid needs to succeed, either. Dillon had a rocky youth that included a number of juvenile offenses, but he hopes his rise to the Pro Bowl shows kids things can be turned around.
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"We weren't dirt poor," Dillon says. "We had enough. When I talk to (the campers), I'll talk to them abut setting goals and sticking to it despite adversity. You have to believe in yourself and you have to work hard. I've been there. Hopefully, they can look at me and know that they can do it, too."
Dillon won't head home after he opens the festivities with his talk at 8 a.m. His name is on the camp, so he'll lead many of the drills and keep a close eye on the running backs in the role of head counselor. He'll get some help from some former Seattle Seahawks and some of the coaches from his alma mater of Franklin High School, but he's the one picking up the tab for the day. At noon, the camp ends with Dillon giving the kids lunch and signing autographs.
"It makes me feel good. It's good to give back to the community," Dillon says. "What makes it worthwhile is if you touch one kid with something you say or do. One kid. That would make it worth it."
The Bengals are hoping they can sit down with Dillon's agent one more time before training camp and are encouraged by comments from the other side indicating they are willing to talk. Agent Marvin Demoff has said his client wants nothing to do with a short-term deal and only seeks a multi-year pact. The Bengals' offer of a five-year contract worth $4.3 million per year with a $5 million signing bonus was turned down last month.
What could complicate matters is the impending signings of Washington running back Stephen Davis and Titans running back Eddie George. Davis has just one 1,000-yard season compared to Dillon's three and Davis turned down $5 million per year with $5 million to sign. George has been looking at $14 million to sign with an extension that would give him a $6 million per year average.
Dillon has never outgained George during his three seasons or led his team to the playoffs like his Tennessee counterpart. But Dillon and George are both 4,000-yard men in rushing-receiving yards for those three seasons with George at 4,809 and Dillon at 4,178. They are also 3,000-yard men in rushing yards with George at 3,997 and Dillon at 3,459.