|Thursday, February 15
Dillon just wants to win, baby
By Joe Lago
If you don't have a chance at making the playoffs, don't bother calling Corey Dillon.
"That's my No. 1 priority -- being a winner and being in a place where that's going to happen," said Dillon, 25. "I've had all the individual accolades, which are fine. I'd like to have more, but I want to structure that with a team-winning concept, too.
"That's what is missing in my career. I just want to be somewhere where I can be content."
This would all make sense, of course, if Dillon ruled out a return to Cincinnati, which finished 4-12 this season. The Bengals saw little progress from second-year quarterback Akili Smith in an offense that ranked 29th overall and averaged just 11.6 points a game.
Dillon, who said he'd rather flip burgers than play for Cincy during his contract squabble last offseason, has the Bengals on his list of teams that can make a postseason run.
"We're close. We're definitely close," said Dillon of the Bengals' chances for a Rams-like turnaround under coach Dick LeBeau. "It's just a point of mapping out what's the problem and finding that out and getting something done about it."
In Dillon's eyes, LeBeau, who replaced Bruce Coslet after an 0-3 start last season, is capable of producing such a miracle. The Bengals went winless in November but finished fast in winning two of their last four, including a 17-14 upset of a red-hot Jacksonville squad.
"He's a good guy and well respected," Dillon said of LeBeau. "He's a great motivator, and the team loves him. I think he is the guy for the job."
Last offseason, Dillon wanted to be anywhere but in a Bengals uniform. Threatening to pull a Joey Galloway and sit out the first 10 games of the 2000 season, Dillon ended a three-week holdout in August by signing a one-year, $3 million contract.
Dillon was a rare bright spot for the Bengals, rushing for 1,435 yards, including a remarkable 278 against Denver to break Walter Payton's single-game mark.
"I'm a forgiving man," Dillon said. "I don't really take too much stuff personal. Prior to the time, it was personal. Both sides got over that and let bygones be bygones. I let that go. I'm not going to hold that against nobody and what they said. I'm pretty sure what went on in the past they're not going to hold that against me either."
Dillon could've been locked up last month for $60 million over eight years with the Bengals. But Jim Sims and David Levine, Dillon's former agents, said Dillon preferred to test the free agent waters. Dillon claimed he never knew about the offer and ended up firing Sims and Levine and replacing them with Leigh Steinberg.
Dillon won't leave until the Bengals say so, though. The team designated him as its transition player on Monday and will be able to match an offer from another club.
"I'm just going to end up where the good Lord wants me to be," Dillon said. "If it's back in Cincinnati, that's where he wants me. If it's somewhere else, that's where he wanted to put me. I'm relaxed about the whole situation."
Joe Lago is the NFL editor for ESPN.com.