Dillon: Hall or bust

6-1-01, 4:45 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Corn rows and passes.

That's what Corey Dillon hopes to see in a future where he would like to be tagged with the catch-all phrase of "complete player."

Dillon plans to bring two-year-old Cameron to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer to take pictures of his record-game exhibit "just so she knows your Daddy did something."

One day, he would love to take Cameron's daughter to Canton so they can take a picture of a more permanent piece.

His face chiseled in stone as a member of the Hall of Fame.

"That's the ultimate. That's the goal," Dillon said after Thursday's last voluntary workout.

"It just might be with corn rows," Dillon said. "That's always stuck with me ever since I heard Warren Sapp say he wants to be the first defensive lineman with corn rows in the Hall of Fame. Well, I want to be the first running back with corn rows in the Hall of Fame."

His 278 rushing yards against Denver is the most ever in a NFL game and has him standing at the bottom of the steps to Canton. But what is fueling his climb is what the critics say he can't do.

When he came into the league, they said he couldn't survive carrying the ball exclusively in his left arm. Now he switches the ball to his right running to his right as easily as picking up a fork.

A year ago, they said he couldn't run away from the safeties for game-breaking plays. Now he's coming off a season he led the NFL with a dozen runs of 20 yards or longer.

Now he comes into a season averaging just 26 receptions per year and they say he can't catch the ball all that well.

So in his 10 practices since signing his five-year, $26 million contract, Dillon has focused on learning the new passing routes for the running back, Of which there are suddenly many.

"In this game, you would like to be perfect," Dillon said. "I don't think you're going to be perfect, but you can be damn close. I just want to be that complete player. I want to be as effective in the passing game as I can be in the running game."

He thinks he can be because new offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski's system spreads the ball around. In fact, on the last play before training camp, quarterback Scott Mitchell threw a pass to Dillon that set up a short field goal out of the two-minute drill.

"That was a check down," Dillon said. "I'm his last option. That's his bail-out route. There was nobody else available."

No, that couldn't have happened last year because Dillon wouldn't have even been on the field in the two-minute drill. Never mind on third down.

"Just being on the field in that situation is big," Dillon said. "I think I can be an every-down back. In '98 I remember I never came out of the game.

"There's a big question about whether our backs can catch," Dillon said. "I think we'll put that under the bridge this year. They're throwing the ball to us. The most in my four years here going on five."

**

KITNA GETS GRIP:** Quarterback Jon Kitna, who led the NFL with 17 fumbles last season, had the Bengals worried early in the month with a spate of botched snaps. Kitna had a return bout Thursday, but is confident it can be solved. He hasn't had much of a problem with the first two centers, Rich Braham and Brock Gutierrez, but has struggled at times with second-year man Roger Roesler.

"Actually, until today I hadn't fumbled any since the first couple of practices," Kitna said Thursday. "It's on me. It's a matter of concentration. I could be out there with Roger, so I've got to concentrate harder."

Kitna thinks the snap is bouncing off the side of his hands when there is a running play to the left and he's getting out from under the center too quickly at too much of an angle.

Kitna went back to Seattle, but plans to return twice before the July 20 start of training camp. After his first month as a Bengal, he was asked about the club's perception around the league.

"Football is football," Kitna said. "All that stuff makes for a good story, but I think we've got a chance to be pretty good."

JONES WAITING: When left tackle Rod Jones was cut Thursday, right tackle Willie Anderson hugged him and said, "I'm not going to say good-bye." He may be saying hello at some point, but not right away.

Mark Bartelstein, Jones' agent, said Friday he's heard from more than three NFL teams about his client and that Jones will leave open the option of re-signing with the Bengals.

But nothing will happen until teams make their June 1 cuts and the NFL salary cap re-forms early next week, when it's going to be an even tougher market for free agents.

According to Len Pasquarelli of CBS Sportsline, there was just $54.07 million available to players Friday with the Bengals, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Arizona, St. Louis, and Seattle controlling nearly 60 percent of it.

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