Dillon wonders at fuss

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ Corey Dillon is again amazed at his ability to be linked to controversy without lifting a finger.

This time, since head coach Marvin Lewis didn't include him among the offensive names who have bought into his program in a recent interview, the buzz through the Striped Nation is that they don't get along. Even though such names as Jon Kitna and Chad Johnson weren't on the list. After Wednesday's practice, Dillon, the three-time Pro Bowl running back, disputed the notion.

"I talk to Marv whenever. He's always open for discussion," Dillon said. "I don't see where this relationship sours,' thing is coming from. Tell people to check their resources. Get it right. I don't have a problem with anyone down here.

"Something must be going good, something must be going right in order for my name to come up with the head coach," Dillon said. "He's trying to turn things around, I'm trying to win a Super Bowl. Things have to be going good for somebody to be running around talking about our relationship."

Late last season, Dillon himself advocated a firmer approach to the players and he is one of the guys who have borne the brunt of Lewis' tougher training camp. He's carried the ball at least once in every event, from the intrasquad scrimmage to both pre-season games, which is a much faster timetable than he is accustomed. Dillon didn't practice during the full-contact live session Wednesday morning, the first one he has missed. He left one last week with a twisted ankle. But he planned to return to Wednesday afternoon's workout.

"It's a little more physical," Dillon said of the camp. "We needed that, big time. So why would I have a problem with someone like that? It's the star, Pro Bowl runner stuff, and I don't think I'm above or beyond anybobdy. I'm just me."

Lewis admitted Tuesday that 'me,' is a strong-willed guy on a day he quoted Bill Parcells saying, "It's not an opera. It's a chorus." But he also continues to insist that Dillon is the team's stud, stallion, or top playmaker, depending on the interview, and he said Tuesday he doesn't think Dillon has ever been off the ship.

Defensive tackle John Thornton, a former Titan, watched another Pro Bowl back during his four seasons in Tennessee and he can see some similarities with the way Dillon and Eddie George practice because both of them run hard.

"He'll play," Thornton said. "I don't know what's going on between those two, but he'll play when it's time to play and that's what we need. You would like a guy to be in tune with you. 'On board,' as Marvin calls it. I think Corey is. He's just his own person and that's good. Guys have to be their own person. He practices hard when he's in there, he runs hard. He's strong-willed and you have to respect that."

Dillon doesn't know how there can be a buzz about him if he's practicing when he can and running hard, and taking shots.

"My calf is sore. I needed to rest it," Dillon said. "You know I'm not going to miss two in a row. I don't think people see that. When I can go, I go. I'm fine. Relax. Relax. Relax."

Dillon indicated Lewis fined him for being late for training camp by eight hours last month because of flight problems. But he says it's not a sign things are amiss.

"I didn't come out and say I had a bad relationship with him. Have you seen me verbally cuss out Marvin? It's ridiculous," Dillon asked. "I miss a couple of meetings with my mom, but that doesn't mean I don't love her. I don't care how I'm being coached. If you want to be disciplined, and like to do things a certain way, we're all with it. I'm not going against the grain. I get paid to do one thing. Run the ball for the Cincinnati Bengals. Period. And that's what I'm here to do."

Thornton has been watching him do that from the other side for four years and saw something new this summer.

"He's a lot more explosive than I thought he was," Thornton said. "He's in his seventh year and he looks really good. I think, nowadays, Corey might be a little more explosive (than George) and be able to take it the distance. That's probably the only (difference), but they're both top backs."

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