By: Christopher Price
November 02, 2005

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Corey Dillon has heard the whispers. He knows what's going on. He's played along with the jokes about being an old-timer -- using a walker, spending the bye week feeding the pigeons in the park -- and so on.

But now, it appears he's done playing. Yesterday, he had a couple of blunt words for people who believe he's too old to compete in the NFL.

"Bring it,” he said.

"I can still play this game,” the 31-year-old running back said yesterday in a rare weekday chat with the media. "What's been going on and what's been said, I'm old enough to not really care about it.

"I'm still young and I really don't care. I don't care what you write. I go home at night and I sleep real beautifully. I'm relaxed, I'm comfortable where I'm at. Maybe my stats aren't where people think they should be. That stuff happens.”

Entering the 2005 season, only one running back -- Curtis Martin -- had more carries over the previous five seasons. And when you consider the fact that most running backs over the age of 30 lose a step, it would only be natural to assume that some of the tread had worn off Dillon's tires.

But if he felt that way yesterday, he certainly wasn't sharing it with the media.

"If you think I'm old and you guys write it and you seriously think I'm old and can't play, I've got one solution -- (equipment manager) Don Brocher,” he said. "Go in there and get some equipment, come on out and I'm going to show you how this 31-year-old guy will bring the pain to you. I will make you pay. I will make you pay. Go get some equipment and I will make you pay. That's my word.”

When stacked against his numbers from 2004 -- age or no -- it appears Dillon hasn't made many opposing defenses pay this year. He's struggled through much of the 2005 season, rushing for just 401 yards through six games. As a result, the Patriots' running game is ranked 28th in the NFL. It's a big drop-off from what he was able to accomplish last year, when he finished with a franchise record 1,635 yards.

"Last year is last year,” Dillon said. "I can't bring back last year.”

Some of his troubles this season can be traced to his injured ankle, which kept him sidelined Oct. 16 against Denver. It looked like it was going to be the same story last weekend against the Bills, but a hamstring injury to Patrick Pass forced New England to turn to Dillon, who gutted out 72 yards and a pair of touchdowns, earning the eternal respect of Head Coach Bill Belichick.

"He gave us a great effort,” Belichick said. "He got some tough yards down there on the goal line. It's been a while since we ran the ball into the end zone against Buffalo.

"We had a lot of guys out there playing less than 100 percent. I mean they played, but they certainly weren't at 100 percent. But they sucked it up and played very tough and competitively in a tough football game.”

"Regardless of the situation, whenever I step in there, this is what I'm paid to do -- to go out there and help the team win,” Dillon said yesterday of his effort against Buffalo on Sunday night. "When I step out there, that's the only thing on my mind. Regardless of any situation, when I step out there, I'm just trying to help the team.”

It was the latest game in a mini-renaissance for Dillon, who has averaged four yards a carry the last three games after averaging less than three yards a carry in his first two games. And when you consider the fact that the Colts are 14th in the league against the run, Monday night could mark another step forward for Dillon.

Not that he would care about his personal numbers.

"You know what? To be honest with you, as long as you win a football game, all the other stuff will take care of itself,” he said. "I'm not sitting here saying, ‘Every game I'm going to rush for 1,000 yards.' As long as we're winning, it doesn't matter.”

Christopher Price covers the Patriots for Boston Metro and He can be reached at [email protected].