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Corey Dillon trying to rebuild relationship with Bengals

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One of the best players in Bengals’ history has had a fractured relationship with his former team for more than a decade. Corey Dillon is looking to change that as the team celebrates 50 years as a pro franchise in 2017.

Corey Dillon

An unfortunate truth with the Cincinnati Bengals and some of the best players they have fielded over the years is a poor relationship shared by both parties. Whether it was Paul Brown clashing with star cornerback Lemar Parrish back in the 1970s, or Mike Brown distancing himself from Pro Bowl wideout Carl Pickens in the 1990s, or Johnathan Joseph leaving the team and complaining about Gatorade, the team has a reputation of not always embracing all of its players.

Corey Dillon was another star player for the Bengals who played during a dismal time in the franchise’s history. For most of the time Dillon wore stripes, he was at odds with ownership. Frequent losing, a lack of talent in critical spots and a coaching carousel took its toll on Dillon, and since he was traded away to the New England Patriots in 2003, he’s been out of contact with any member of the Bengals organization. He’s looking to change that with the team’s 50th anniversary being celebrated this year and its top 50 players receiving recognition throughout the season. Dillon will be one of those 50 guys.

“They say time heals wounds,” Dillon said, on The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Bengals Beat Podcast. “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.”

Some of the “past” incidents Dillon is referring to resided in a public statement claiming he’d “rather flip burgers” than play for the Bengals, as well as his indignant tossing of his jersey into a crowd in 2003, including a vague reference of it being his last game as a Bengal. It seems as if Dillon realizes those weren’t the best ways to express himself at the time, but did explain that it all stemmed from frustration.

The Bengals won just 26 games from 1997-2002 before Marvin Lewis arrived and even with a new, affable head coach and a No. 1 overall draft pick spent on quarterback in Carson Palmer, Dillon wasn’t buying into things being different with the team. He had been part of games where names like Akili Smith, Scott Mitchell and Paul Justin took starting quarterback snaps with the Bengals and wasn’t convinced Lewis was the guy to turn Cincinnati around.

Even during this miserable era of Bengals football, Dillon racked up some incredible accolades. He set the rookie single-game rushing record in 1997 on Thursday night against the Tennessee Oilers, only to follow it up with the single game rushing record of 278 against the Broncos in 2000. Those feats and his being named to three Pro Bowls as a Bengal were quite impressive given who was often at quarterback.

Though he was still under contract with the team in 2003, his heart wasn’t in it. Dillon might have been part of something special in a Bengals turnaround under Lewis, but ended up being huge in the PatriotsSuper Bowl XXXIX win the same season he was he was traded there.

“I am a grown man, I can admit when I’m wrong,” Dillon continued. “I did some stuff that was not cool, OK? Not cool at all. 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 winning 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.”

As he inferred in the above statement, the Bengals began to thaw the relationship with Dillon as they reached out to him in celebration of the team’s 50th anniversary and honoring the best players during the past 50 years of the franchise this year. It appears Dillon is running with the gesture and attempting to make the best of it.

“I’ve been done with it. I’m over it. It’s been too long,” Dillon said of the feud. “I haven’t played in 10 years. Worrying about something that happened in 2003 is not on my list to deal with. Trust me.”