Dillon says #039;goodbye#039; to Cincinnati

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 29, 2003

CINCINNATI - Reaching the corner of the stadium, Corey Dillon stripped off his gear and gave fans some parting gifts.

The Bengals' all-time leading rusher tossed his helmet, shoulder pads and cleats into the stands Sunday following a 22-14 loss to Cleveland that ended Cincinnati's season.

Dillon is convinced it also ended his career with the Bengals, who have Rudi Johnson to replace him.

Email newsletter signup

''They don't need me,'' Dillon said. ''They've been winning, quote unquote, without me.

''I had a great career here. It's time to move on. There's no use asking why. I don't care about statistics, the Pro Bowl and all that stuff. I've been there. What my soul is thirsting for is to play in a big game, to play in and win a Super Bowl. I'm going to do everything in my power to make that happen.''

Dillon, 29, has two years left on his contract, but most likely will be released in the offseason.

Dillon's severe groin injury in the third game of the season gave Johnson a chance to show what he could do. Johnson was the feature back as the Bengals played their way into contention, and finished with 957 yards for the season.

Coach Marvin Lewis tried to keep Dillon content by alternating series with the two backs when Dillon was healthy. Johnson carried 14 times for 52 yards Sunday, and Dillon had 50 yards on eight carries.

The time-sharing arrangement was only a short-term fix. Lewis declined to talk about Dillon's future after the game.

''We can't diminish today,'' Lewis said. ''We have plenty of time for the future.''

Dillon is convinced he has no time left with the Bengals, who failed to achieve a winning record during his seven seasons in Cincinnati. Last week, he told reporters he was happy because he was on the verge of a career change.

On Sunday, he said farewell to fans on the same field where he set the single-game rushing record in 2000 - 278 yards against Denver, a mark eclipsed this season by Baltimore's Jamal Lewis.

Then, he said goodbye to the media.

''Just do the math,'' he said after the game. ''I have a right to feel the way I do. There are no hard feelings. I'm happy with what I've done here. But it's me being the CEO and I'm going to take care of Dillon Inc. My house is for sale and I'm not going to make a trip back this way.''

Several teammates walked over, gave him hugs and looked over the Bengals gear that Dillon no longer wanted.

''See, the looting has started already,'' Dillon joked.