In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, Corey Dillon was the face of the Bengals. His abrupt exit hurt, but here’s why it’s time to welcome him back with open arms.
About 20 years ago, there wasn’t much to cheer for in Cincinnati. Losing season, after losing season broke the spirit of Bengals fans everywhere. There were few bright spots, but one of those bright spots was running back Corey Dillon.
Week in and week out, Dillon came to play. He was the workhorse of the offense, carrying the load to the tune of 266 carries per year from 1997-2003. He left it all on the field every single Sunday.
During his seven seasons in Cincinnati, the power back from the University of Washington racked up some phenomenal numbers. Dillon threw up six straight 1,000-yard seasons and accomplished some of the greatest feats in Bengals history. His 8,061 rushing yards still stands as the single-most in team history.
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And most impressively, his 278-yard performance against Denver in 2000 broke the record for the most rushing yards in a single game. That record has since been passed by three other players and is now held by Adrian Peterson’s 296-yard performance against the Chargers in 2007. Nevertheless, Corey Dillon’s case as one of the Bengals ever should never be questioned. Yet, here we are.
Dillon’s exit bruised the egos of Bengals fans
Yet despite his production, Dillon’s Bengals career is tarnished by the way it ended.
The continual losing coupled with a contract dispute caused Dillon’s frustration to boil over to the media on February 22, 2000. And his comments left a third-degree burn on the hides of the Bengals ownership and fan base.
For those who don’t know what I’m referring to, Dillon famously said he would rather “flip burgers,” than return to the team in the 2000 offseason.
As a restricted free agent at the time, Dillon was frustrated with his contract. He was underpaid and overworked. And it didn’t help that Cincy was paying low ball. Dillon knew his worth and his production made his eyes see dollar signs.
He wanted out and his comments were the kindling to the fire that eventually burned the bridge on his way out from Cincinnati in 2003.
The trade to the Patriots netted the Bengals a second round pick and ended the rocky relationship in Cincinnati.
Both sides benefited from the trade, with Dillon being placed in New England where he would have his best professional season, winning his one and only Super Bowl.
The Bengals moved on to the Rudi Johnson era and the draft choice ended up being Madieu Williams, both were solid starters for the team.
Dillon’s exit really shouldn’t be looked at so negatively, all things considered. But ultimately, that’s the way things go when it comes to football. Loyalty is everything.
Dillon is ready to leave the past in the past
But, now, the former Bengals star is ready to bury the hatchet and return to Cincinnati for the Bengals 50th Anniversary season.
In an article on Cincinnati.com, Dillon said he was regretful for how things ended.
"“I did some stuff that was not cool, OK? Not cool at all, Dillon said. “But, hey, at the end of the day I got the end result that I wanted. That was to play on a stage and actually win a Super Bowl. Do I wish it would have been with them? Absolutely. Absolutely. It didn’t work out that way. I don’t have no ill will toward nobody there.”"
Dillon went on to mention how important it is for the two sides to mend fences and celebrate the great history of the Bengals this upcoming season.
"“They say time heals wounds,” Dillon said. “I played seven years hard for the Bengals. I’m a part of their history. They are a part of mine. I don’t dwell on the past. What happened in the past is done. If I had a magic wand to go undo some stuff I would, but I can’t. But that doesn’t mean we can’t move forward and have a better relationship. That’s how I look at it. I appreciate it for them giving me a call and inviting me back. That means a lot.”"
Bengals ready to give credit where credit is due
The Bengals ownership extending the offer to Dillon shows me that this 50th season is going to be one for the books. Not only does the team look poised to make a return to the postseason this year, but the entire Bengals community feels united.
And I couldn’t be happier. Dillon is my second favorite Bengal of all time and was my favorite running back as a kid. He only ranks second on my list behind Chad Johnson.
Not only does Dillon need to be welcomed back with open arms, he needs to be enshrined in the Bengals Ring of Honor that has been rumored to be in the works. Retire his number and give him the credit he deserves. He’s a Bengals legend.
We all win nothing from holding onto a 20-year-old grudge. Let’s build the Bengals history and take care of the players that laid it all on the line for the Orange and Black. Who Dey!