A Visit with Michael Dean Perry

Michael Dean Perry was more than a mere football player. He was fleet-footed monster who could be on a quarterback before you could blink. He was the Fridge's little brother. He even had his own sandwich! Rich Passan catches up with the six-time Pro Bowler...

When he first played in the National Football League, Michael Dean Perry was known as the little brother of William (The Refrigerator) Perry of the Chicago Bears.

William had already won a Super Bowl and was the toast of the football world as the almost-comic Fridge. At nearly 400 pounds, his girth far exceeded his talent.

So when Michael Dean lined up at defensive end and tackle for the Browns as a rookie in 1988, he played in a much smaller spotlight than his much bigger brother.

But by the time he left the Browns following the 1994 season, Michael Dean proved he was by far the better of the two Perrys. It wasn't even close.

In seven seasons with the Browns, the second-round draft choice out of Clemson utilized his unusual quickness to harass opposing offensive linemen so well, he was elected to five Pro Bowls and four All-NFL teams as a defensive tackle. He picked up a sixth Pro Bowl nod while with Denver.

It was not unusual to see Perry get such a quick start off the snap, he would often be in the quarterback's lap in the blink of an eye. His disruptive play caused opposing offenses to construct different schemes to try and stop him.

The pass-rushing specialist had 47.5 career sacks with the Browns, including a career-high 11.5 in 1990.

The 40-year-old Perry now lives in suburban Charlotte, N.C., with his wife, Trini, and daughters Amber, 19; Taylor, 14; Tyrah, 11; and Tiera, 5.

The Orange & Brown Report caught up with him recently.

The Orange & Brown Report: What's keeping you busy these days?

Michael Dean Perry: I'm in the process of opening Subway restaurants. My partner and I have a few now. We've been in the business four months.

The OBR: Speaking of food, if I recall correctly, wasn't there a sandwich with your name on it when you played for the Browns?

MDP: The MDP triple cheese and bacon burger. Not many people can say they get a sandwich named after them.

The OBR: Is Subway going to serve something like that?

MDP: No. You know better than that.

The OBR: How did you get into Subway thing?

MDP: I was looking for something to do and Subway was a pretty good company. It's a great product and, of course, in this health-conscious society, we thought it was a pretty good match.

The OBR: Eventually, how many Subways do you hope to have?

MDP: About five or six.

The OBR: How much do you weigh now?

MDP: About 275 or 280.

The OBR: You were listed at 6-1. Were they being a little generous?

MDP: Of course not.

The OBR: Are you a legit 6-1?

MDP: As far as I know.

The OBR: You didn't look as tall as you were listed.

MDP: Yeah, when you're as wide as I am, of course you don't look as tall. Another guy named Howie Long . . . they said he was 6-5. He had a short torso. He didn't look like it, but when you walked up on him, it was like, "Oh yeah, he's pretty tall."

The OBR: What was your best playing weight?

MDP: Probably around 280.

The OBR: You were drafted by the Browns in 1988 as a (3-4) defensive end from Clemson. How much playing time did you get that first year?

MDP: From the middle to the latter part of that first season, I played a lot. We went to a Bear defense, which is ironically a 4-3. I was the Eagle tackle (3 technique tackle) and got some playing time. I was also a defensive end in pass situations. I was considered a pass-rush specialist at that time.

The OBR: So when the 4-3 came along the next year (under new coach Bud Carson), you kind of felt comfortable.

MDP: Absolutely.

The OBR: Did Bud Carson have the Eagle tackle in his scheme?

MDP: Bud had me at Eagle tackle and cock nose, where you line up a little on a slant on the center.

The OBR: The one thing that impressed people the most about you was your extraordinary quickness. How did you get to be so quick?

MDP: A gift from God. I have no idea. Growing up, I played a lot of basketball and I always had to guard smaller, quicker guys if I wanted to play. And I think that improved my foot skills and foot speed. I think it's a spinoff from that.

The OBR: I would imagine the guys you played against were a little surprised to see someone your size that quick.

MDP: Yes, I would say so.

The OBR: Did they ever say anything to you about that?

MDP: No. They just knew they had a tough game when they played me. Probably more so than anything, I was the youngest of eight boys and most of my brothers pretty much were better athletes than I. Of course, when you're the youngest, you always had to prove yourself. You had to guard those guys and try to get in their end and be competitive, so my competitive nature and skills developed from playing with those guys all my life.

The OBR: Did you notice that the guards and centers you played against did things a little differently for you when they realized how quick you were?

MDP: Not only the individuals, but the schemes. For certain offensive protections, we would notice on film that they would set a certain way. But when we played and I lined up, they'd change protections. So you didn't really have any good tips or keys when you watched because when you played, they did something totally different against you.

The OBR: When you think about Cleveland and the seven years you spent there, what goes through your mind?

MDP: That was a great place to play. The fans were tremendous. They were very loyal to the Browns and to me. I had a great experience in Cleveland. What people don't realize is that during that time I was playing, free agency was unheard of. So the guys stayed on one team a good little while. I had an opportunity to play with the core guys a long time and had a nice relationship with them. That was a great time. We had some great memories. The fans were great. That was a great time in my life.

The OBR: Think perhaps you might have come along a little too soon as far as free agency is concerned?

MDP: No. It's all relative. No doubt about that. You look back now and say it wasn't bad at the time I played. But of course if I did come along a little later, it would have been a little bit better. Hindsight is always 20/20. You have to accept the era you played in and what was offered then and make the best of it.

The OBR: Any game or games that stick out as far as your Cleveland experience is concerned?

MDP: No, not really. I had some pretty good games in that stadium. Not any one in particular.

The OBR: Of all the offensive linemen you played against, who gave you the most trouble?

MDP: Randall McDaniel (of the Minnesota Vikings) was pretty good. Mike Munchak (of the Houston Oilers) was pretty good. All those guys I battled twice a year in the AFC Central were good. I didn't get a chance to play against Randall a whole lot, but we had some good battles when we did play. And of course, in the AFC Central, Munchak would be the one.

The OBR: Anyone in particular from Pittsburgh?

MDP: Dermontti Dawson when he was there. We'd have some good battles.

The OBR: Munchak is the Hall of Fame. Dawson will probably be in the Hall of Fame. What about you? You're a six-time Pro Bowler. Not many guys can say that. You ever think of Michael Dean Perry and the Hall of Fame? Has that ever crossed your mind?

MDP: It crosses my mind when other players tell me. As a matter of fact, some players recently asked me what's the deal with you and the Hall of Fame. I just laughed and said, "Well, you know, that's a little more politics than I'm ready to get into." And I leave it at that.

The OBR: You were pretty popular with the media. You were always very cordial and cooperative with the media. They didn't have any axes to grind with you.

MDP: No, they didn't have any axes to grind, but I kind of shied away from them as well. I wasn't a Bob Golic, by any means, who was very forward (with the media). I did my interviews and was very cordial. I didn't seek that attention at all.

The OBR: How did the split with Cleveland come (when he left for Denver following the 1994 season)?

MDP: My time in Cleveland was up. (Bill) Belichick was there at the time. He went in a different direction. (Mike) Shanahan was in Denver and they were going in another direction and, sure enough, it was a fit.

The OBR: Did the end (of your career) come quickly for you? You split that last season between Denver and Kansas City.

MDP: Actually, it was the last month at Kansas City.

The OBR: Did you see signs?

MDP: The signs were obviously there. Physically, that was the worst year of my career. I could barely get around. Nothing that was overwhelming. Just a lot of minor nicks and aches and pains that kept me from being the player I was the previous nine years.

The OBR: So the decision was made by you that I'm not coming back and give it one last shot when I heal?

MDP: That was the decision I made after that year. I said that if I get to the point where I feel this badly, there's no need for me to come back even though when I retired, teams called me a year or two after I said I was done. They tried to lure me back in.

The OBR: Who?

MDP: Ernie Accorsi (former Browns general manager who drafted Perry and later became GM of the New York Giants) the next year . . . and a couple of others I can't remember.

The OBR: Why did you resist?

MDP: Because I was done. I wasn't going to play this game feeling the way I was feeling at that time.

The OBR: Let's wind it up with your brother. I think you were the most famous Perry brother in the National Football League. I'm sure others will disagree because of what happened in the Super Bowl and the fact William was the Refrigerator. Did it bother you he was more famous than you?

MDP: No, not at all. That was his cup of tea. He excelled with the media and they loved him for that. I was happy for him. There was no animosity or jealousy in that regard because of how our parents raised us. We're happy for one another regardless of what direction our careers went in.

The OBR: No sibling rivalry?

MDP: I ain't gonna say that. You always want to beat your brothers in little pickup games, things like that. But when it came to notoriety and you wishing you were more well known, no, that never came into play. It was friendly sibling rivalry, per se. Who can dunk better and all that.


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