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TDBH: Dillon’s Bengals marathon ends with Patriots’ Day trade
April 19, 2018 04:00 AM | Geoff Hobson
(Today's selection is the final day of the series that began when the Bengals unveiled their 50th celebration on April 20, 2017.)

It's complicated.

Marvin Lewis and Corey Dillon have their wishes granted today when the Bengals trade their disenchanted all-time rusher to the Super Bowl champion Patriots for a second-round draft pick. Lewis not only receives the club's fifth choice out of the 96 on the first day of this week's NFL Draft in exchange for Dillon, but he also unloads a player that never endears himself to his new regime and never misses a chance to lobby himself out of town so he can get to a Super Bowl. "I think everybody pretty much broke even," Dillon tells a conference call this evening. "We're talking about the New England Patriots. This is a Super Bowl team. They're the defending Super Bowl champs. They got exactly what they wanted. I guess Cincinnati got exactly what they wanted. Corey Dillon got exactly what he wanted. I'm happy and I'm a part of a great organization. It's a good deal all around."

Of course, no one in New England may find out until tomorrow. Bengals president Mike Brown swings the secret late last week, but it is pending on Dillon's meeting with head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Scott Pioli 48 hours ago. The deal is not announced until today, a sports holiday in Massachusetts known as Patriots Day, fittingly. Dillon is competing with the Red Sox taking three of four from the Yankees, the Bruins playing the Canadians in Game 7, and the Boston Marathon. Dillon, 29, one of 28 men to gain more than 8,000 yards, raises eyebrows throughout his career with some outrageous moves and even more outrageous quotes that make many question his commitment to a team concept. Even his last act as a Bengal. It turns out to be ripping off his uniform and throwing it into the Paul Brown Stadium stands after the Browns knock the Bengals out of any hope of the postseason in the finale.

But Dillon feels he eases the Pats' fears when he flies into Hartford, Conn., to meet with Belichick and Pioli, two guys who have put a premium on getting players with un-Dillon baggage. "It was a very long conversation. Maybe five hours," Dillon says. "They did their research. They found out I wasn't a bad guy and they just wanted to reassure themselves by meeting me. I know how he chooses players. Fitting into their team system is very valuable. They don't have the patience and the time for someone who doesn't fit their profile. It's not a big issue. The whole issue in Cincinnati was my frustration of not winning. You're not going to hear a peep out of Corey Dillon in New England." Dillon also knows he had some character witnesses. "They had the power to send me to the depths of hell," Dillon says of the Bengals. "They could have told the Patriots I was a butthead. But they didn't. I think that shows they had respect for what I did for them. I have a lot of love for Mike Brown, Troy Blackburn, Katie Blackburn, Coach Lewis. It was my first pro organization. I love a lot of people there. It was just time to move on."

The Bengals' bid to mold Cincinnati into a younger roster more committed to Lewis' program has now netted the Bengals two trades in 10 days, 10 choices this weekend, and seven picks in the first 117 choices that take them into the middle of the fourth round. The Bengals stock their team with key players in their break-out season next year that claims the AFC North. Safety Madieu Williams is the player taken with the Dillon pick. There is also cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, linebacker Landon Johnson, and defensive end Robert Geathers. Meanwhile Dillon has a dream season with a Patriots record and career-high 1,635 yards and gets that Super Bowl TD in a win over the Eagles as part of his 75 yards on 18 carries.

He comes back to PBS 13 years later when the fans vote him one of the top 50 Bengals in history and both seem to need the closure. But he almost doesn't come. It takes ex-teammate Willie Anderson to convince him he'll be more than welcome. "Corey thought everyone was still mad at him," Anderson says. "I told him, 'Man, through the bad years you gave people a reason to go to the games.' He kind of forgot that with all the stuff that was going on. Our record, the losing, and how he left. He thought that still existed. But it doesn't. I think he's been pleasantly surprised this weekend ... He's getting some closure."

When he visits Mike Brown, they talk about the Denver game in 2000 and how he broke Walter Payton's all-time record on just 22 carries. Brown tells him, "We're glad to have you back," and Dillon says, "That means a lot." He has a long practice chat with Lewis and Dillon calls him a great coach and motivator. When he's signing autographs before the game against the Bears, a fan shows up with the helmet he threw into the stands all those years ago. Dillon wants it. The fan wants to keep it. He just wants Dillon to sign it.

"There's nothing I could say that would make him give it to me," Dillon says. "He wasn't mad at me or anything. He just put it in my face. Somebody else probably would have thrown it away, chucked it, give it back ... But he kept it. And you know what? He can have it. It's with a good guy ... He didn't hold it against me, which is the amazing thing, right?" ... It's closure. It's closure on a lot of stuff that people would feel with lack of communication. If you don't communicate you don't know how people feel. Actually coming back and getting a feel for it."

It's complicated.

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