It's gut-check time in the NFL.
So check the gut on Irv Eatman. The Houston Oiler offensive tackle weighs 310 pounds, and his very name confesses, "I. Eatman." To which we can only reply: You certainly do, man.
But that's cool. Fat's cool. And cool, in hip-hop slang, is phat. Thus: Fat is phat. "Fat on fat" is how 330-pound Nate (the Kitchen) Newton, the Dallas Cowboy guard, describes blocking 335-pound William (the Refrigerator) Perry, who spent the last two seasons as a tackle with the Philadelphia Eagles. "If we rub up against each other the wrong way, we'll start a grease fire."
All summer long, NFL teams have been trimming the lean from their rosters. Fat's where it's at. "It's almost a status symbol," says New Orleans Saint offensive tackle Richard Cooper. "I'm 340. It's almost like saying, 'I'm a Lexus, I'm a Mercedes....' "
I'm a Lincoln. Offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy of the Atlanta Falcons will begin the season at 350 pounds, an entire Olympic gymnast less than his off-season high of 415. When Arizona Cardinal offensive tackle Larry Tharpe was with the Detroit Lions, he was known as Magnum because, says then teammate Lomas Brown, "He weighed 357." Cleveland Brown offensive tackle Orlando (Zeus) Brown stands 6'6", weighs 325, wears a size-64 suit coat and declined to be interviewed for this story by casting verbal lightning bolts at his inquisitor. "You think I'm some kind of —— freak?" loosed Zeus.
Freak? Au contraire, mon frère avec le grand derrière: Three hundred and twenty-five pounds is not far from the norm for a lineman in the National Football League. As Pittsburgh Steeler offensive tackle Leon Searcy (weight, 306; shoe size, 17EEE) puts it, "Now 300 pounds is considered light."
And so we celebrate sport's newest roll models, football players the size of the federal budget deficit, several of whom we gathered for a (very) round-table discussion of sumo wrestling, suit shopping and the relative shortcomings of wicker furniture. We asked all kinds of impertinent questions of these 300-pounders. They graciously gave us their gut reactions.
Example: Is fat ever good?
"Yeah," says 305-pound Buffalo Bill offensive lineman Glenn Parker. "When it's on a prime rib."
Which reminds us. You can chew the fat all day with these guys and never hear the word. Fat, that is. "I'm not fat," says nonfat 329-pound Minnesota Viking offensive lineman Bernard Dafney. "I'm svelte."