JACKSONVILLE, FLA. -- Corey Dillon has every reason to be nervous this week. He shot his way out of Cincinnati last spring after seven years of losing finally bested him and his frustration boiled over. He had never stepped foot on postseason football field in his career before he came to New England.
Now, 16 wins and about 1,800 yards later, including 217 in two playoff games, Dillon is preparing to play in the Super Bowl. Yet he feels no pressure. He's relaxed because he is one of the guys in New England and many of the guys have been through this Super Bowl week thing one or more times. Their poise has him at ease.
"It's very relaxing (being around these guys that have been here before)," Dillon said. "It calms me. I see how they prepare and how they carry themselves and they are relaxed and it eases my mind. It takes the pressure off of me thinking that this game is bigger that it should be. It's a big game, but to see them relaxed and poised relaxes me and make me treat it like a regular season game and just play football."
That's all Dillon wanted to do all along. He never wanted to be Cincinnati's savior and when he wasn't, he was somehow responsible for the team's failure. He tired of that and was refreshed by his trade to the Patriots.
"To be honest with you, I knew we would win games," he said. "But to be sitting here and having an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl? I thought about that. But hey, you go out there and actually do it as a team. It's an awesome feeling. I talk to people that say to cherish this because you never know when the opportunity might come around again. So that's basically what I am trying to do."
He's also trying to produce as he has all season to help the Patriots win a third Super Bowl in four seasons. And the guys blocking in front of him are glad to have him. "Just having him come in here and join our team was a great thing for us," guard Joe Andruzzi said. "He's been a proven tailback in this league. He's been unbelievable throughout and to have him come join us was a great thing for us and for him too."
Dillon's impact has been great. He set a Patriots rushing record with 1,635 yards to go with 12 rushing touchdowns while the helping the Patriots control time of possession by nearly three minutes per game. With Dillon averaging 4.7 yards per carry, the Patriots, as a team, reached the 4 yards per carry average for the first time since 1985 – the longest such drought in the NFL. He also helped keep pressure off quarterback Tom Brady by adding a game-breaking element in the running game and making play action more effective, which allowed the Patriots to throw down the field more often and expand the offense. Dillon's ability to run inside and outside with equal effectiveness also makes defenses defend the entire field.
Now he hopes his strong performance carries over to Super Bowl Sunday.