Bengals' Dillon Ponders His Future


Monday, October 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


Even when the Cincinnati Bengals do something good, there's always a ``but.''

The Bengals won their first game Sunday and Corey Dillon broke Walter Payton's single-game rushing record with 278 yards.

But.

Unless Mike Brown and the Cincinnati front office change their penurious ways, Dillon will be running for someone else next season.

This was typical Cincinnati, perhaps the start of a run that gets the Bengals four or five wins and leads Brown to predict once again that they've turned the corner. The 407 rushing yards were the most for one team in an NFL game in half a century and were amassed against a Denver defense that had allowed only 65 yards a game on the ground, second best in the NFL.

Dillon's heroics were accomplished despite a passing attack (Akili Smith and Scott Mitchell) that was 2 of 14 for 14 yards.

A restricted free agent before this season, Dillon held out through much of training camp, then signed a one-year, $3 million deal that will make him an unrestricted free agent after the season. Yes, the Bengals could make him the franchise player, limiting his options, but that would only end up in hard feelings on the rest of the team and eventually in a trade.

Brown's history suggests Dillon won't be offered anything near the going price for the NFL's top running backs. In September, Washington's Stephen Davis signed a nine-year, $90.75 million deal that, with incentives, could be worth $137.75 million.

Dillon is in Davis' class. He had 246 yards against Tennessee in 1997, now the sixth best game of all time. The only other back with two games among the top six is O.J. Simpson.

For now, Dillon's in a daze.

``Maybe when I sit down after the season it will hit me, but now I don't know what to tell you, I really don't,'' Dillon said after Sunday's game.

When his agent, Marvin Demoff, sits down with Brown after the season, he'll know what to say: Ante up or let him go.

As Brown knows, Demoff is not to be taken likely.

If he wants Dillon somewhere else, that's where Dillon will be.

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THE INJURY FACTOR: ``There isn't a team in the league that isn't going through what we're going through,'' Rams coach Mike Martz said Sunday after Kurt Warner broke the little finger on his throwing hand taking a snap in St. Louis' first loss, 54-34 in Kansas City. ``You just have to work through it and keep going.''

Sunday was one of those weeks — there are always two or three in an NFL season — when the injuries to key players, particularly quarterbacks, just pile up.

It started with the broken thumb on the last play of Thursday's practice that ended the season for Cleveland's Tim Couch.

In addition to Warner, Sunday's list included Chicago's Cade McNown (separated throwing shoulder); Kansas City's Elvis Grbac (right elbow); Brock Huard and Jon Kitna of Seattle (concussions); Cincinnati's Akili Smith (head); and two of the NFL's best running backs — Eddie George of Tennessee and Marshall Faulk of St. Louis.

Warner is expected to be out 4-6 weeks, although he says he'll be back earlier. In any case, the Rams have Trent Green, who was set to be the starter last season until he injured a knee in an exhibition game, opening the way for Warner.

Green was 15 of 21 for 205 yards and three touchdowns after replacing Warner. Warren Moon, who will turn 44 in less than a month, replaced Grbac for the Chiefs in that game and was 3 of 3 for 78 yards and a touchdown.

But Faulk, who returned to Sunday's game after injuring his left shoulder, may miss next week's game with San Francisco. And George, who sprained his right knee on the first carry of Tennessee's 14-6 win in Baltimore, is still to be evaluated.

That Baltimore game produced perhaps the quickest recovery.

In the first quarter, Tony Siragusa, the Ravens' 330-pound defensive tackle, injured his neck with a headfirst tackle. He lay on the field for 10 minutes while doctors immobilized him and he was taken off on a stretcher.

By the time he got to the locker room, he was walking around. He was taken to a nearby trauma center for X-rays, which showed a neck bruise.

So he got back into uniform, returned to the stadium and was back in the game in the second half.

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RECORDS: George Blanda lost one record Sunday when Gary Anderson's field goal gave him 2,004 points for his career, breaking Blanda's career record of 2,002.

Warren Moon may be closing in on another.

He threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Cliff Branch for Oakland in a 27-23 win over Dallas on Dec. 14, 1974, when he was 47. Moon's TD pass Sunday leaves him the second oldest to do it.

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JUST THROW ME THE BALL: Two weeks ago, Washington wide receiver Albert Connell came to the sideline and berated receivers coach Terry Robiskie because he wasn't getting the ball. Connell, expected to be Washington's deep threat with Michael Westbrook out, then caught five passes in the second half of a 17-14 win in Philadelphia.

On Sunday Connell had the best game of his career, seven catches for 211 yards, including TD receptions of 11, 49 and 77 yards.

``It seems like it's been forced on me,'' Connell said. ``Everybody keeps saying I've got to be the guy.''

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SORRY, KEYSHAWN:. ``It's called, 'Moss, go get it,''' Minnesota's Randy Moss said of the 39-yard game-winning catch against Buffalo, on which he dangled his toes on the back line of the end zone. ``I've always been a prime-time player. I think my name and my number speaks for itself.''

At least Moss talks AFTER he produces.