"He's so good the rest of the time," she continues. "He never is like this at home, wouldn't think of hitting me or the kids."
In fact, everyone interviewed about Cox last week thought of him as loyal, kind and funny 165 out of 168 hours a week. "I can slap him upside the head," said Chicago tight end Keith Jennings, "and all he does is laugh." Bears defensive tackle Paul Grasmanis said, "This guy is always happy. It's just that, when it comes close to game time, he's got this switch." Even Packers quarterback Brett Favre, on whom Cox would love to perform open-neck surgery, said, "He's a really good friend of mine and a really great guy."
Cox goes out most NFL Sundays and tries to do a one-man reenactment of Attica, slugging opposing players in the back, screaming at his coach, impugning the referee's ancestry. "I've asked him about maybe getting some help," says LaTonia. "Maybe see a psychiatrist...."
"Bulls—-!" says Bryan. "This is my therapy! Some doctor wants to talk to me, I'll tell him to take his education and stick it up his butt! All it would do is make me a bad player. It might take that, that edge away!"
LaTonia turns her back on him. "You see?" she says.
Maybe it's fear.
Maybe it's the fear that being slow (5.0 in the 40), not especially big (6'4", 250 pounds) and not especially cut (19% body fat) is not going to be near good enough, so he has to play with an absolute "madness," as he calls it. But the problem with convincing yourself that everybody in a different uniform color is Hermann Göring and that he has your kids in his trunk is that football games come with whistles, every other one of which is supposed to make you stop and act like a normal person again.
So far in his seven-year career—including his time with the Miami Dolphins, from 1991 through '95—Cox has flipped off the fans in Buffalo ($3,000 fine), spit at the fans in Buffalo ($7,500 fine), fought a Buffalo running back (ejection from game and $10,000 fine), flipped off and verbally abused a game official (fined a week's pay, $82,352), sued the NFL (twice, claiming there was inadequate security at Rich Stadium, and that the league was vindictive in fining him $82,352), called commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his advisers "clowns," unleashed a televised tirade in the Chicago locker room that included 38 profanities in 5½ minutes and ended with the words "Praise be to God," and challenged the entire Cincinnati Bengals bench to a fight. Those incidents, coupled with his record in the helmet throw against Green Bay on Labor Day evening, gave him a total of 10 fines for $138,352, or enough to cast a few 20-karat gold life-sized replicas of his middle fingers.
"But have you ever seen him use drugs?" asks his agent, Cliff Brady. "Hit his wife? Snort cocaine? Drive drunk? Smoke pot? Get in bar fights? Carry a gun through an airport? No. He doesn't do any of that stuff."
Plus, he's pretty loose with his money and his time, too. He has bought uniforms for his high school, East St. Louis Senior; is footing most of the bill for a new fitness center at his college, Western Illinois; and is helping to pay for the rebuilding of a church in his old neighborhood in East St. Louis. That's the funny thing about these highly emotional people: Hate you or help you, they're in it clean up to the bulging veins in their necks.