Dillon sees Pats and asks, 'Why not?'

2-7-02, 9:30 p.m. Updated:
2-7-02, 10:30 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The room service is quick, the beach is lapping up right underneath the balcony, and the breeze is as relaxed as Corey Dillon.

"Just chillin'," Dillon reported Thursday from Hawaii. "I'm kind of the old guy on the list of running backs, so I'm just taking it easy."

But Dillon ran hard in Saturday's Pro Bowl, his best outing of his three in the NFL's All-Star game. He was the game's second-leading rusher in helping the AFC to a 38-30 vic tory over the NFC with 58 yards on six carries that included a vintage 29-yarder off a stiff arm. Chiefs running back Priest Holmes had 77 yards on seven carries and a 39-yard touchdown run.

On Thursday, Dillon shared a few thoughts while getting ready for his third straight Pro Bowl:

On being selected to the game after the Steelers' Jerome Bettis withdrew because of injury:

"I'm looking at it as just filling a void, but I'm here and I'm going to play my best. I would like to have made it right off the boat and a lot of people said I should have made it anyway. But I must have done something to be a first alternate. There's a lot of great backs and there's nothing wrong with being one of the top four."

On his arthroscopic knee surgery that takes place probably at the end of the month:

"No big deal. It was my idea. I just want to clean it out. Think of a luxury car with the cap loose on the hose. You can ride damn many more miles, but you know its there. I'm a '97 Bentley, but I've got 2002 accessories."

On the Patriots winning the Super Bowl: "I'm happy for some of my boys from U Dub, like Lawyer (University of Washington's Lawyer Milloy). They got on a roll. There's no doubt we can do that. They went from 5-11. We can't blame it on the talent. We've got all the talent in the world. We've got coaching. I don't know what's missing, but we've got to find it. We beat the Patriots. Whupped them. But they got on a roll, won nine straight and that's what you have to do There's no reason we can't do that."

On his free time in Hawaii: "I've been golfing with (Buffalo's Larry) Centers. There's some attraction with me and fullbacks."

Back in Cincinnati, Dillon is usually playing golf with fullback Lorenzo Neal. But if he has clicked with a back on the big island this trip, it's fellow AFC running back Curtis Martin of the Jets. Martin , 28, actually is a year older and has one more Pro Bowl appearance than Dillon. But Martin's last time was in '98 and Dillon's first shot was in '99.

"We're the two stars no one has heard about," Dillon said.

"We're not Marshall Faulk or anyone like that. We've got a lot of similarities. We play every Sunday. Play through injury, and we work hard being productive and we've been doing it for many years.

"He may have a little bit of an edge because he plays in New York and his teams have done better and won like I hope we can do," Dillon said. "But you still don't hear about him a lot and I think that's a little bit like me."

Similar? How about Martin and Dillon finishing this year with the same numbers? Martin rushed for 1,513 yards while Dillon went for 1,315.

Martin is only one of three backs in history to gain 1,000 yards in his first seven seasons. Dillon is one of only six to gain 1,000 yards in his first five seasons. Martin has 9,267 yards on 2,343 carries in seven seasons. Dillon has 6,209 yards on 1,413 carries in five seasons. At his pace, he'll finish his seventh season with 8,693 yards on 1,979 carries.

Longevity is one of the reasons Dillon wants to get his left knee cleaned out. He hasn't done anything to it since he displaced his kneecap late in the 1999 season and he wants to get rid of the periodic swelling.

"It was my idea," Dillon said. "It didn't bother me during the season, but why not fix it when you got time? I've been meaning to do it the last couple of years, so let's do it now."

Dillon doesn't expect a lot of heavy lifting Saturday.

"I don't think anyone is out there trying to break somebody's neck," Dillon said. "I don't think anyone is trying to take you out with a tackle. It's competitive, but it's not the Super Bowl. It's not the playoffs."

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