Dillon's teammates wonder about his outburst

Updated: October 23, 2003, 7:18 PM ET

CINCINNATI -- Chad Johnson can't understand why Corey Dillon wants out.

Just as the Cincinnati Bengals have started turning toward respectable, their disgruntled running back has started lobbying to leave. It doesn't make sense to his teammates.

"I'm not sure what's going on with CD," Johnson, a wide receiver, said Thursday. "Right now should be the time he should be happy. Things are changing around here, which some of these veterans haven't had for a while.

"Right now should be the time he would want to be here."

He doesn't.

In two separate interview sessions Wednesday, Dillon emphasized that he's unhappy and wants to go where he'll be appreciated when the season ends.

Dillon waved to reporters and smiled broadly Thursday, but didn't want to elaborate on his comments. Neither did coach Marvin Lewis, who is trying to deal with his reluctant star by ignoring what he said.

"As I told you yesterday, the Corey matter is between you guys and Corey," said Lewis, who didn't even slow down to talk to reporters as he left the practice field Thursday. "It doesn't affect our football team or the organization, OK?"

Dillon's comments filtered through the locker room Thursday. Teammates formed theories about why he picked such an inopportune time to make his feelings known.

The Bengals (2-4) are coming off a 34-26 victory over Baltimore that moved them back into contention in the weak AFC North. A victory Sunday over first-place Seattle (5-1) would bring them a long-awaited measure of respect.

By turning the spotlight on himself, Dillon violated Lewis' overriding rule of keeping things private and keeping the focus on the team.

"You can't stop a guy from being what he already was," right tackle Willie Anderson said. "In the past, Corey was a guy that spoke up on things that he didn't think were right. If somebody (Lewis) wants to stop that, it's going to take some time for him to stop it. That's how he is.

"You would hope we'd keep things in-house because it's always better, but the guy's unhappy right now."

Part of Dillon's frustration results from a strained groin that has limited him for the last four games. Dillon is one of four players in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons, but has just 203 yards this season.

During his midweek rant, Dillon urged the team to trade him if it could. Teammates found it curious that he waited until after the Oct. 14 trading deadline to speak up.

"That's the weird thing about it," defensive tackle John Thornton said. "He could have said it two weeks ago. If he didn't want to be here, he would have said it before."

Anderson was surprised by Dillon's decision to make his unhappiness known a few days after an important win.

"The timing could be questioned," Anderson said. "Some of the things that were said were somewhat understandable."

Although Dillon has repeatedly aired frustrations during his seven-year stay in Cincinnati, he has never been accused of giving a halfhearted effort on the field.

"I've never questioned anything about him," said Anderson, who has been with Dillon all seven seasons. "I don't think anybody on this team questions anything about his heart, his integrity."

Dillon is expected to play Sunday, even though his groin isn't completely healed. He stood and watched practice again Thursday, allowing the injury to heal a little more.

"At the rate we're going, we're going to need him down the stretch," Johnson said. "That's somebody that we can't allow to go. I'm going to voice my opinion if they even think about letting him go. That's where it all starts. When he gets healthy, everything's going to be all right."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index