Dillon has winning attitude

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

His resume was top heavy with everything the New England Patriots tend to reject in a potential employee.

Stuck in the rut of a losing life as a Cincinnati Bengal, Corey Dillon was weighed down with the well-earned reputation of being a malcontent. And that was on his good days.

His me-first meanderings included ripping the coaching staff, the city and at the end of his seven-year tenure, summing up his attitude by saying he would rather "be flipping burgers" than playing for the Bengals.

He was once arrested for DUI. Another day Dillon got stuck in traffic on the way to a game then turned around to go home in frustration.

So what would the Patriots, who prefer their players to be quiet and sign a no "I" in team clause, want with Dillon?

"At times my behaviour may have been sporadic," Dillon said from about as far as one could get from flipping burgers -- sitting at a podium here in Jacksonville talking about Sunday's Super Bowl date with the Philadelphia Eagles. "But I was pissed off, I wanted to win. Whenever there was a negative down there, it stemmed from not winning."

Before dealing for Dillon, Patriots coach Bill Belichick asked around and for the most part heard what he wanted. If Dillon was frustrated with losing, Belichick took that to mean he must want to win.

"All the people I talked to said the same things," Belichick said. "This is a guy who wants the ball in his hands when the game is on the line."

He may have been the only one buying that story. But presumably Belichick was also confident that if Dillon was to try his bad-bottom act in New England, there were plenty of Patriots to take care of it.

The team is thick with players, such as linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Willie McGinest, who aren't shy about enforcing the law of the locker room their way.

"If you don't have a certain type of character or a certain type of work ethic, you won't last very long," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said.

When he arrived at training camp, Dillon admits he felt the stares of his new teammates, reflecting a curiosity of what they might be getting themselves into.

"I'm pretty sure it was in everyone's mind," Dillon said. "Let's see what this guy is all about and see if the rumours are true."

From Belichick's perspective, the move to acquire Dillon carried only minimal risk. The Patriots had won two of the past three Super Bowls with run-of-the-mill runner Antowain Smith, after all. Smith was deemed so central to that success that he was released mere days after last year's Super Bowl win in Houston.

And the price was better than right for Dillon, a guy who had run for more than 1,000 yards six of his seven seasons and once rumbled for 278 against the Denver Broncos.

"A number two for Dillon?" former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson said at a Fox Sports press conference earlier this week. "That's a slam dunk."

So far it has been that and more. He has given his team a potent mix of big-play threat and move-the-chains machine prompting Bruschi to call him "clock-killin' Corey Dillon."

The one game he missed due to injury was the Patriots worst of the season -- a 34-20 loss to the Steelers. His 1,635 rushing yards were a career high and third best in the league.

The big key, however, is that the one part of Dillon's character that seemed to break down the most in Cincinnati hasn't popped up in New England. There's not much negative on a team which has won as many games this year (16) as in Dillon's final three as a Bengal.

"When I signed, I knew we were going to win football games," Dillon said. "I also knew that the pressure wasn't going to be on me to strap a franchise on my back and take them to the Super Bowl.

"Look at it. Without me, they won two out of the last three."

With him, chances are it will be three of the past four.


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