Is Porter that fearsome?

They call him "Peezy." At least the hip reporters do, the ones who want to buddy up to Joey Porter. Me? I call him Mr. Porter, or Joe. Not that I don't want to buddy up, it's just that I know he wants no part of me, which is fine.

Porter's demeanor is part of the reason Sports Illustrated just named him the "most feared player in the NFL." They have him on the cover.

The other part of the reason is that Porter's a pretty good player. And the other part of the reason is that he plays for the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers. And the other part is …

"I talked my way up on it," Porter said. "If you say it enough, and do enough, somebody's going to recognize something."

Sure glad he's talking about it. Someone else asked the question. He said, "Hey, Peez, what's up with that SI cover story?" You know, real casual like.

Me? I didn't know how to broach the subject. Then again I have a different angle. I come not to buddy up to Joey Porter, but to stick a knife in his back.

Yeah. How about that?

See, I don't think Porter is the most feared player in the locker room, let alone the NFL. I don't think he's the most feared linebacker on his team. More specifically, I don't think he's the most feared right outside linebacker on his team.

That would be a Mr. James Harrison. They call him "Silverback," because, as a Mr. Clark Haggans once said: "They're big, strong gorillas from the Congo, the silverback gorilla. They spend their days swinging on trees and breaking stuff. All the other apes and everyone in the jungle are afraid of him."

Yeah. How about that?

Haggans said that two years ago and I haven't used it until now. The reporters are the only people in the locker room who don't call Harrison "Silverback." One reason is he doesn't like it. The other reason is the racial overtone. So now the linebackers think we're racist because we DON'T use the name.

I don't understand any of it, but I think Mr. James Harrison would split my white head wide open if I asked him the wrong question, let alone this question:

"Do you think Joey Porter deserves to be called the most feared player in the NFL?"

So as you can see, it was kind of difficult to get these guys to say the obvious, that Harrison is the most feared player in the NFL and not Porter.

I mumble something to Porter about the award, something about wanting to get Harrison's thoughts, something about a bullseye on his jersey, never really asking him outright if he thinks he deserves his new moniker. I just don't want to eat a Peezy sandwich today, thank you very much.

"I don't understand your question," Porter said. "If you want Silverback's thoughts, go ask him."

Okay. If you say so.

Harrison dresses in the near corner of the locker room and he's in his chair. He's seated, but bending over and untying his shoes. Practice had just ended and that's when the locker room heats up. Most reporters ask their questions before practice. The players are more pensive then. But after practice the pads are coming off, the kickers are throwing balls around, the players are happy, loud.

Um, James, I'm doing something on Joey's cover about being the most feared man in the NFL.


Yes, that's an all-caps scream. He wanted to make sure I heard him because he wasn't going to sit up until he completed his task.

James, I'm wondering what some of the other linebackers think.


Well, what do you think about him being named the most feared man in the NFL?


Um, I thought you might receive some consideration for that.


Let's call it a day on that happy note then. Thank you.

Hey, there's Clark Haggans. You don't have to pussyfoot around with Clark. He's a semi-normal dude. He knows when a reporter is trying to stick a knife into someone. Not that he likes it, but he won't kill you for trying.

"There's a little bit of a difference," Haggans explained. "With Joey you can see it more. Silverback has more of a presence. He lets you know about it with his actions. Joey lets you hear about it, see about it, know about it, and after remind you about it … and then let the media know about it."

That's what Porter was trying to say from the start. At the shoot, as Porter was being photographed for the cover, he wasn't even aware of the title they were about to slap on the cover.

"But it's not a title I'm running away from," Porter said.

Do you like it?

"I'm good with it. Why?"

Well, I was just thinking that Harrison's a pretty fearsome guy, too. Isn't he?

"Yeah. All of us are," Porter said. "I'm just a little bit more mouthy than the rest of the bunch. That's the reason I got picked. But if any one of us would've been picked like that, we would all understand. We're all some dysfunctional-ass guys anyway. Any one of us could've got it."

Aren't linebackers supposed to be dysfunctional?

"Yeah. I never met a nice happy linebacker," he said. "It just don't fit the position. They've got to be some type of dysfunctional anyway."

That's what I thought.

Maybe we'll pick this up again some other time. Thanks, Mr. Porter.

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