Words can be just those words. Empty and meaningless. But to listen to the Bengals and their head coach on Thursday, there is a true sense that the verbal blowup of running back Corey Dillon on Wednesday was not a major concern and will not be a distraction come this Sunday when the Bengals (2-4) host the Seattle Seahawks (5-1).
"As I told you yesterday, the Corey matter was between (the media) and Corey and it does nothing to affect our football team, the people in this building or the organization," said head coach Marvin Lewis after practice. "He feels that you don't treat him fairly and every time he says something it's a big deal. He's tired of it… He's a grown man. Sometimes guys are going to have to vent their frustration. It's not with us."
Dillon was all smiles one day after venting. He walked around the Paul Brown Stadium complex in good spirits, waving to reporters but not talking to them as he promised on Wednesday. He also did not practice for the second consecutive day, resting his strained groin in hopes that he will better equipped to take on the Seahawks than he was last week against the Baltimore Ravens.
Many of the players still hadn't heard what it was Dillon went into a tirade about prior to Thursday's afternoon practice but followed their head coach's lead and cast off the incident almost as if it never happened.
"The other guys on the team aren't going to stop doing their jobs just because somebody said something," said offensive tackle Willie Anderson, more concerned with how to help his team win its third game than trying to analyze Dillon's thoughts. "Was it the correct time? Who knows? But that's not going to stop me from blocking my defensive end this weekend or stop Levi (Jones) or those guys from doing their jobs. If it is, you're in the wrong sport. You need to go back and play high school football where you don't get paid to do a job. We all still have jobs to do."
On Wednesday, Dillon spoke about his unhappiness with being portrayed in the media as someone who is washed up after six highly productive seasons simply because he has been slowed by, first, a hyperextended knee and then a strained groin that has plagued him since he sustained it in the third game of the season in a 17-10 loss against Pittsburgh. He also made it clear that he wants to play someplace next season where he can contend for a Super Bowl and feel appreciated for his talents, be it in Cincinnati or somewhere else. He has two years left on a five-year contract after this season.
Dillon is one of four running backs in the history of the NFL to have run for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons in the league. He also holds or shares 17 Cincinnati franchise records, including most career yards and most career rushing attempts.
Besides his beef with the media, one of the other concerns Dillon expressed earlier Wednesday to the Dayton Daily News was that he didn't feel as if he had many friends on the team or in the organization.
"What (Dillon)'s got to know is that we're all with him. I'm with him. I'm behind him," said wide receiver Peter Warrick. "If you let that bother you then you're not focused on what you have to do. You can't let outside distractions come into your job. What's on the outside, you've got to let it stay on the outside."
Dillon did not practice for the second consecutive day on Thursday but is still listed as probable for Sunday's game against the Seahawks.
"He's an All-Pro running back and a guy who has success in this league," said Anderson. "I've been with him the longest and I never question anything about him and I don't think anybody on this team has questioned anything about his heart and his integrity. He's a guy that no matter what he does off the field, even this incident, he'll still be out here on Sunday on third-and-one and run hard as hell. Guys on the team appreciate that."
"I just wish he wasn't hurt," said wide receiver Chad Johnson. "I just hope he hurries up and gets healthy because as the season goes on we're going to need him."