10-24-02, 8 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Corey Dillon made it clear Wednesday he has no desire to retire any time soon.
Dillon, the three-time Pro Bowler, informed none other than Bengals President Mike Brown Wednesday as they bumped into each other walking out to practice at Paul Brown Stadium. A smiling Dillon wrapped his arm around Brown's shoulder and asked, "Mike, are you coming to my retirement party in eight to 10 years?"
Brown laughed and told him, "Sure, I'll be there, Corey. I'd like to be there as long as it's not too soon ."
Dillon then told Brown, "OK. Seven or eight years or so."
A frustrated Dillon told bengals.com last week that he had "a surprise," for the team at the end of the season if things didn't get better, and that he had "plenty," of options.
"Somebody going to force me to do something? Anybody here? No, I don't think so," Dillon said without elaboration last week.
But Dillon, who turns 28 Thursday, turned out to be just as hot when one of those options reported was retirement and he let it be known Wednesday he's not thinking about calling it quits after six seasons, or before his contract expires after the 2005 season.
But there is still "a last time," Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. This is Dillon's last scheduled matchup with fellow Hall-of-Fame running back candidate Eddie George, his historical contemporary.
Both are the linchpins of their teams and are always there. George is going to make his 102nd straight start Sunday and has never missed a game in seven seasons. Dillon has missed two games, and none since 1999.
And both are having relatively slow starts, with Dillon ranked seventh in AFC rushing (464 yards) and George 13th at 331 yards. Both have fewer carries than they need to get started (George has two more than Dillon with 112). And, George sounded just as combative and
determined as Dillon Wednesday when he spoke to the Cincinnati media via a conference call.
"I'm still here," George said. "I haven't missed a game. I'm still working hard. I'm practicing healthy and running healthy. It's just a matter of time."
Dillon has high regard for George. When he signed his five-year, $26.1 million deal last year, it was George's deal he used as a model because he felt George was one of the best. But Dillon declined Wednesday to talk about their 10th career meeting as two of the elite backs in the NFL.
"Eddie's my man. I think he's great, but that's all," Dillon said.
Dillon is trying to do this season what George couldn't do last year, which is become the fourth man in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in his first six seasons. A nagging toe injury and the loss of fullback Lorenzo Neal contributed to George's first sub-1,000-yard season last year with 939 yards on 315 carries.
There are rumblings he is looking like his old self. And he insisted Wednesday he's healed now and feels like the Super Bowl George of '99.
Before the Titans went on their bye last week, George rushed for 113 yards in the win over Jacksonville, his first 100-yard day of the season and just his second since Dec. 17, 2000.
"It was very frustrating not being able to be healthy," said George of last season. "And when I'm out there trying to do my best, but things just weren't going well all for me. It was one of those years, I guess, every player goes through."
If he's going to go off, the Bengals are a pretty good bet. During their twice-a-year rivalry in the old AFC Central that ended last year, George racked up five 100-yard games, his most against any team, and he's averaging 90 yards against them, the most against any old Central team except the expansion Browns.
He's 7-2 against the Bengals since Dillon became Cincinnati's lead back, but Dillon has outrushed him in five of nine games, including last year's regular-season finale. Dillon has averaged 86 yards against Tennessee and has 11 touchdowns, the most against any team.
But they haven't really cut it loose in the same game. They've had 100 yards in the same game once, but it was in Tennessee's 44-14 victory in 1998. Dillon broke the rookie rushing record against George's Oilers in 1997 with 246 yards while George had 11 yards. When George had the third best day of his career with 181 yards in 2000 at PBS, Dillon had 95 yards on 15 carries, but 80 came on one touchdown run.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher sees the similarities then and now.
"Both are capable of controlling games if they're given an opportunity to get started and given an opportunity to run the ball over the course of an entire game," he said.