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FOXBORO, Mass. -- He was alone now, away from the horde of reporters, away from the tacklers who had pulled at his limbs for the three previous hours.
Corey Dillon was seated at his locker early Sunday evening, his work done, pulling a shirt over his chiseled and tattooed body, when a reporter sauntered up to ask him about being a first-year member of the New England Patriots.
Dillon sighed, clearly ready to bolt the locker room for better things, like a kiss from the wife and kids or a big steak dinner.
In the past, Dillon might have shunned the reporter. No time, man. No time. This, though, is a different Dillon, a happy, easy-going player who seems as excited about playing as he has been at any point in his career.
So he sat and talked.
"This is great," Dillon said. "I love it here. This is everything I thought it would be and more."
What's not to like? After seven years playing in football obscurity in Cincinnati -- the scouts and players knew him, but many fans didn't -- Dillon is playing for a winner now, the Super Bowl champions, a team off to a 6-0 start.
With the Bengals, he said, he was happy just to get six victories in a season.
"We lost a lot, you know," he said. "This is different. I look forward to things. This is a great bunch of guys. I have a lot of respect for these guys. They know how to win. That gives me energy to be a better player and a better person."
So far, he's two for two.
On the field, Dillon has given the Patriots a power runner with star potential, something missing from their two Super Bowl winners the past three years. Dillon can muscle the tough yards, but he can also rip off the long gains.
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Away from the game, he has been a model citizen. The Corey-will-detonate talk has subsided since he has been assimilated into the Patriots family. It's as if anybody who puts on that uniform becomes a robot -- a heck of a football-playing robot.
Dillon has not fussed, caused a distraction or complained, although skeptics will say it's only a matter of time.
"Let them say what they want," Dillon said. "It doesn't matter a bit to me."
Dillon came to the Patriots this spring in a trade for a second-round pick with a reputation for being a problem; his me-first approach turned off many in Cincinnati. It's part of the reason the Patriots were able to get such a talented back for so little.
The Patriots haven't seen a glimpse of trouble yet.
"Man, he's been all business," said one player.
Dillon scoffs at his bad-boy reputation, challenging those who believe it to get to know him personally. They'll see, he said, that he's a normal guy.
"Don't go off what everyone else is saying," Dillon said. "Do your own research. If you're going to figure something out about me, talk to me. Find out what I'm about. Don't go by what's in the paper. Come meet the person yourself. And then come to the conclusion on your own. If you meet that person, and you still don't like me, then feel free to write what you want. Don't believe everything that's been written about me."
Speaking with him, you come away with the thought that Dillon is refreshing and candid, but at times he becomes child-like in his defense of his past differences with Bengals management.
"If you're going to pass judgment on me, fool on you," Dillon said. "I know the type of person I am, and things are working out fine here. Whoever wants to hate, keep hating. It doesn't matter to me."
He just can't hide from his past troubles, though. During his seven seasons in Cincinnati, he was arrested once for fourth-degree domestic assault and another time for a DUI and driving with a suspended license. He also had a reported nine arrests as a Seattle teenager.
The Patriots did their due diligence before trading for him. General manager Scott Pioli and coach Bill Belichick met with him, and owner Bob Kraft spoke with him by phone. All came away convinced he was worth the risk.
In recent Patriots style, they were right. Doesn't it seem like everything they touch turns to gold?
Dillon leads the team in rushing with 637 yards and is on pace for 1,699, which would be a Patriots single-season record.
Last Sunday's game against the Jets showcased what he could do for this team. He ripped off a 44-yard run in the third quarter, showing his big-play ability. But it was what he did in the final minutes that made Belichick smile wide.
His final three runs were for 6, 2 and 4 yards and sealed the victory as the Patriots were able to run out the clock.
"I tend to like the harder stuff better than the easy stuff," Dillon said. "That's the type of person I am."
Dillon rushed for 8,061 yards in his seven seasons with the Bengals, making him one of the top backs in the league over that period. On October 22, 2000, he set the NFL single-game rushing record when he ran for 278 against Denver. Jamal Lewis has since broken the record, but it helped get Dillon some attention that had been eluding him in Cincinnati. Playing for a team that went 34-78 during his time there, Dillon was the best back nobody saw.
"Nobody saw me there, but I don't blame them," Dillon said. "I'm not mad at them. I'm just glad to have a fresh start and get a chance for people to see what I can do. It's a great situation."
When he says that, it's hard to believe this is the same Dillon who people ripped, the same Dillon who seemed to have problem written next to his name. He certainly seems like a new man, his "we" approach a far cry from the way he was viewed in Cincinnati
His value to the Patriots is quite obvious, too. They now can control the clock when need be, no longer just relying on Tom Brady's right arm.
"He's such a tough runner," Brady said. "I love watching him run."
The best running he has done, though, is away from the past.
"This is paradise, man," Dillon said. "Paradise."
Which happens to be a long way away from Cincinnati
I have to crash as it is late and I'm getting up real early to go to Nasheville and watch the Bengals/Titans game.
I would love to hear opinions from other Bengal fans on this article that I believe is not one of Prisco's better ones.
Feel free to chime in fellow Bengal or non Bengal fans that read this.[/b]