10-14-02, 11:55 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon is so frustrated with his team's woeful start that he indicated Monday he's considering options that could include retirement before next year.
"They better get it right or at the end of the season I've got a surprise for them," Dillon said a day after the Steelers dropped them to 0-6 with a 34-7 loss.
Asked what the surprise could be, Dillon said, "You'll see, because I'm just going to leave it like that. Mark it. Print it. Photo it. I don't give a crap how you put it in there. I'm sick of this crap, period."
Dillon, who has three years left on the richest contract in Bengals' history after this season, could sit out while demanding a trade. Or he could retire, and forfeit a large portion of his $26.1 million deal that he signed in May of 2001 and is scheduled to give him about $18.65 million over the first three years of the contract.
Dillon, who turns 28 next week, disputes the notion he has no options.
"I've got plenty, believe that,"
Dillon said. "Somebody going to force me to do something? Anybody here? No, I don't think so."
A friend of Dillon's said Monday retirement wouldn't be out of the realm.
"Not if you get sick and tired of getting pounded every week and have nothing to show for it," the friend said. "He has the kind of lifestyle that doesn't need a lot of money."
Dillon is the Bengals' three-time Pro Bowl meal ticket who is also their leading receiver with 22 catches, and one of the bigger casualties of their collapse. He is eighth in NFL rushing with 464 yards on 110 carries, 33 fewer carries than league leader Priest Holmes has made to post 653 yards.
With the Bengals getting outscored by 106 points in the first half, Dillon has carried just 50 times in the second half and has carried 22 times or more in just two games.
It looked like the Bengals found their running game a week ago in Indianapolis. He had season-highs with 23 carries for 164 yards, the first time in 10 games they lost when he had at least 130 yards in a game that put him on pace to become the fourth player in NFL history to gain 1,000 yards in his first six seasons.
But on Sunday against the Steelers, Dillon had just 57 yards on 17 carries after getting just one 11-yard carry in the club's opening seven-play drive that resulted in Neil Rackers' short 46-yard field-goal try. His average gain of 4.2 yards is slightly lower than the 4.4 career average he brought into this season.
The last time the Bengals were 0-6, Dillon lugged them into the win column in Game 7 of the 2000 season with a NFL record 278 yards against Denver in a 31-21 win.
Dillon admitted in this past training camp that his highly-competitive nature also gives him a volatile personality. He predicted he would go off if things didn't go well. The surprise is that he didn't go off Monday, but that it took him so long to go off during a season his team's passing game is third worst in the NFL after being near or at the bottom the previous two seasons.
"I'm tired of it," Dillon said. "Six years of this B.S. I ain't lying to you."
Asked what he is looking for so he doesn't pop his surprise at the end of the season, Dillon wouldn't answer.
"That's not me," Dillon said. "The way it's going, it's not looking good."
Joby Branion, one of Dillon's agents, had no comment Monday night.