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No easy answers

Sometimes sports can be like this and when it is, it's not really sports, is it?

You can't really call it business, because it would never happen at your place of business. Corey Dillon was here Tuesday, but he really wasn't. He's on the Bengals roster, but he's really not. He's the heart of the franchise's running game, but his heart isn't in it because he doesn't think the Bengals have him in their hearts.

It's crazy, huh?"  running back Michael Basnight asked. "It's a crazy world, the National  Football League."

How crazy? While Dillon sat in his car Tuesday morning, his teammates were on the field working out. Dillon could see them. They were about 192 yards away from him, the number of yards he gained against the Browns last December.

How crazy? Basnight, who has gained 308 yards in his one-season career on 62 carries , is the leading candidate to open the season at running back. Dillon is a leading candidate to turn 25 years old in October sitting at home.

How crazy? Things go on the same even though things are so different.

"I just hope he'll be all right," Basnight said. "I'm sure he'll be all right."

Basnight would have hugged Dillon if he saw him. Dillon would have hugged Basnight. They would have laughed, told a few jokes, asked about their offseasons. But Dillon didn't go near the locker room or the field.

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He was here and not here and the ball was snapped and plays were run.

"You watch the cutups of the tapes and there's Corey doing his thing, running wild," said quarterback Akili Smith. "Then you go out on the field and he's not there. It feels funny. At some point, (the Bengals) have to give a little and Corey has to give a little. That's negotiating. Hopefully they will keep at it over the phone."

Sometimes good people just disagree. Tuesday was one of those surreal days.

There was Marvin Demoff, one of the NFL's brightest and capable agents, statesmanlike in his dealings for Hall-of-Famers John Elway and Dan Marino, sitting in a car conferring with Dillon. There was Bengals President Mike Brown, who has delegated the negotiating role to his children in the downstairs offices, moving the talks upstairs to his place. The Spinney Field scuttlebutt is whenever people go into the corner office with a deal on the table, it almost always gets done.

But not Tuesday.

The Bengals don't think Dillon has the track record to get elite running back money. Dillon does. Don't believe it when they say you can make stats do anything you want. The stats couldn't get a deal on this day.

"The show has to go on," said fullback Nick Williams. "That's all I can say. If CD doesn't sign, we can't sit around thinking if we can replace him. We have to go out and do it ourselves."

The show does go on.

Right now, Basnight is the chairman of the "back-by-committee," concept. Basnight and Brandon Bennett have each had one big game of their combined 30 career NFL games. Curtis Keaton has had plenty of big games, but they were for James Madison. Dillon had the biggest night ever by a rookie running back only two years ago.

What's crazy? That Dillon won't play for one year at $1.371 million? Or that the Bengals are prepared to go into the season with their fingers crossed at running back?

There are no easy answers. Dillon is proud and sensitive. You see his point. The Bengals are wary of giving a big deal in Carl Pickens-like fashion to a player who has expressed Carl Pickens-like displeasure. You see their point.

Maybe what's crazy is there are no answers. The only answer is that the games will get played and things go on. 

"We need Corey back," said right tackle Willie Anderson. "I think the team knows it.

"We need him for Akili's development. We'll go as far as Akili's arm takes us in the third and fourth quarter with big throws. But we can't have him throwing 40 passes a game. . .We can't (go to the playoffs) without a feature back running game. The way it helped Peyton Manning. For his development, he needs a running back to take the pressure off him."

Remember that glorious night on the riverfront in 1997 when his offensive line mobbed him after breaking Jim Brown's rookie rushing record against Tennessee? Now Tennessee is coming off a Super Bowl and Dillon is sitting  in a car, a window and a world away from his teammates.

Is anybody right and anybody wrong?

Probably not. Except maybe Basnight.

He was right.

It's crazy.

But that's sports in 2000 and now he's got the ball.

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