Don't do it. Don't give in to the temptation, even as Hugh Douglas shakes the orange plastic bucket just so, the better to highlight the cornucopia of candy within it. The offer seems safe enough, especially coming from this smiling man whose dulcet baritone makes him so engaging. Still, ignore his pleasantries and refuse his advances, because if you don't—if you dig your fingers into that pile of Twix bars and Rolos and bite-sized Snickers—you're a goner. For the mischievous, hyper-tongued Douglas is setting you up.
Today, Douglas has designs on his rotund Philadelphia Eagles defensive linemate and good friend Hollis Thomas. As the two dress at their adjoining lockers deep within Veterans Stadium, Douglas offers Thomas some candy. "Nah, man," replies Thomas, trying to head off the inevitable assault. "Look at you. You've already had too much of that stuff today." Douglas offers his bait again, but again Thomas declines. Not to be denied, Douglas takes a different tack. "What's that thing on your shoulder, then?" Douglas asks. Sensing a trap, Thomas eyeballs him, before explaining that the neoprene sleeve on his left shoulder will keep the muscles warm on this chilly afternoon. "You look like a gladiator, man," Douglas says, as Thomas rolls his eyes, and stands to leave. Too late.
"And you know what your gladiator name should be, don't you, dog? Don't you?" Douglas bellows as Thomas walks away. Mind you, Douglas has Thomas like Abbott had Costello, and this Costello tips the scales north of 315 pounds. "You would be"—the mirthful Thomas knows he can't escape fast enough—"Fat Bastard! Where you goin', you big Fat Bastard? Come back here! Hey, I'm not finished yet!"
He's most certainly not, but if you don't believe the man—and you've got, oh, a spare hour or six—just try him. Douglas, the Eagles' splendid sixth-year defensive end, who is second in the league in sacks with 13 after Philadelphia's 34-9 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, possesses the most impressive mouth north of Warren Sapp. Equal parts scathing and endearing, Douglas's verbal eruptions provide the comic relief that, until this season, was a much-needed balm for a team with myriad on-field shortcomings. Bui alter its third consecutive victory, Philadelphia, at 8-4, sits atop the NFC East, thanks largely to a defense, led by the Pro Bowl-caliber play of Douglas, that ranked ninth through Sunday. "With [rookie tackle] Corey Simon and Hollis and the rest of the guys, I know it's not just about me," Douglas says of his gaudy stats. "My sacks are an extension of our unit as a whole. I just stir the pot."
The Thomas episode provides a snapshot of everyday life inside a remarkably grounded locker room, a picture of perfect chemistry in which Douglas revels in razzing each and every person who happens past. Indeed, as Douglas's teammates sit laughing at the harangue, he decides with a shrug that, in Thomas's stead, they'll do just fine. Over the next half-hour, Douglas lets fly as though he can't help himself. Among his victims are the 295-pound Simon—"Hey Little Dumplin', you back below 300 pounds today? Little Dumplin' found out he was three-oh-oh yesterday, and he ran his ass off on that treadmill! No candy for you!"—and sheepish defensive tackle Paul Grasmanis, who failed to purchase a new pickup truck he'd planned to buy. "Gras, talking about buying a new pickup truck a while back," Douglas begins, as several teammates gather round, already chortling. "So I go out to the parking lot, and there's your same ol' beat-up truck, just with new tires. Then the damn thing catches on fire!"
Ever the good teammate, however, Douglas finally does the right thing, and turns his tongue on the most deserving Eagle: himself. Eventually, his diatribe finds him reflecting on what he likes about his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. "He's not a yes man, you know? A couple times I've told him I want to meet this girl or that girl. You know what he says? 'Hugh,' he says, 'I gotta be honest. You're not that attractive.' "
Long after Douglas has gone, Grasmanis is still beaming. "Hugh's the best, most fun locker room guy I've seen in my five years," he says. "You ask anyone on this team, and they'll say the same thing."
Winning over teammates is one thing; winning over Andy Reid is another. While the Eagles' stern, stoic second-year coach could be forgiven a distaste for the nonstop jabbering of his star pass rusher, the two have instead formed a bond that, at times, is a mystery even to them. "When Big Red came here last year, I thought maybe he didn't like me talking so much," says Douglas. "I admit that sometimes I do things to try and throw him off, but he lets me do my thing. I think he wants me to do my thing."
Says Reid, "Hugh's a wonderful, funny guy who'll talk to anyone for as long as they want. He'll get on people, sure, but he's not overbearing or mean-spirited. He doesn't call people out. He doesn't overdo it."
That said, don't look for coach and player anywhere near each other come Sunday: Reid has banned Douglas from his game-day bus. "He likes to talk and sing, and I don't," says Reid. "But the one time I told him to stop [before a Sept. 10 matchup against the New York Giants], he played his worst game. So I turned him loose again." (After Douglas showed up late for a pregame meeting on Sunday, Reid, who benched him for the first two series, may want Douglas back on his bus.)