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Play Loud
MICHAEL SILVER
September 04, 2006
Yeah, his bark is bad--but his bite is worse, which is what makes voluble All-Pro Joey Porter not just the most quotable but also the most feared player in football
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September 04, 2006

Play Loud

Yeah, his bark is bad--but his bite is worse, which is what makes voluble All-Pro Joey Porter not just the most quotable but also the most feared player in football

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Porter screamed insults at Lewis on the field, blasted him afterward to reporters and got into a shouting match with him near the Steelers' bus. At a late-December rematch in Baltimore, the two co-captains had to be separated before the coin toss. They patched up their differences last February in Hawaii, a few days before the Pro Bowl. Lewis, serving as an analyst for the NFL Network, praised Porter in the days leading up to the Super Bowl and, as a former MVP on the field for a pregame ceremony, wished him luck. "Ray and I have come a long way," Porter says. ( Lewis, through a Ravens spokesman, said, "There was no hatchet to bury" and declined to comment further.)

Aside from the two games he sat out following the gunshot wound, the only game Porter has missed was in November 2004, when he was ejected before the kickoff because of a fight with Cleveland Browns halfback William Green during warmups. A remorseful Porter was chewed out by Cowher and by the one person whose authority he respects even more: his wife, Christy. Unlike Sammy Hagar, this is one person who can drive 55. "She's his Kryptonite," Bettis says of Christy, a Bakersfield native with whom Joey has four children: daughters Jayla, 9, and Jasmine, 7, and sons Joey Jr., 6, and Jacob, 2.

Christy met her future husband when she was a third-grader and Joey, one grade behind her, "was the class clown," she recalls. "I thought, God, does this kid ever shut up? The older he got, the louder he got. I can still remember our junior high school principal, Mr. Seams, standing in the balcony looking just like the teacher from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, screaming, ' Joey Porter--shut up!'"

Part of Porter's resistance to zipping it stemmed from his hardscrabble surroundings. "In Bakersfield everybody's always trying to challenge you," says Porter's older brother, Amosis (a.k.a. Moss). "It's the bully syndrome: If you tone it down, they'll step on you. And Joey has the biggest mouth in all of Bakersfield."

Christy mostly wanted no part of it but agreed to accompany Joey to their high school prom after both were stood up by their respective dates. Eventually he won her over--even after he showed up late for their wedding in 1999. According to Porter, his best man, Colorado State (and future Cincinnati Bengals) linebacker Adrian Ross, was being cited for parking illegally on an east Bakersfield street, and the groom-to-be bristled when the officers called for a search of Ross's tricked-out Chevy Impala. One cop ordered Porter to cross the street and keep quiet; predictably, he refused. "Typical Bakersfield cops, doing what they do--harassing and intimidating," Porter says. "They threw me in handcuffs for asking questions and left me in the back of the police car in 110� heat with the engine turned off. I'd pissed them off so much, they drove me all the way downtown and then let me go. We were so damn mad, we all went back to my house and started drinking." When he finally arrived at his wedding, he says, "we were drunk and almost three hours late. My wife probably thought I wasn't coming."

Wouldn't it have been easier simply to obey the cops in the first place? "What's right is right, and what's wrong is wrong," says Porter, who later pleaded no contest to obstructing or delaying an officer. "It's hard for me to sit back in those situations."

PORTER APPEARED to be gearing up for another confrontation this off-season. He skipped some of the Steelers' voluntary workouts because he was unhappy with his contract--a four-year, $18.9 million deal that will pay him $9.2 million in salary and bonuses through 2007. But a conversation with Cowher defused the potential squabble with the front office. Now that he's back in black and gold, Porter, who missed the early part of camp while recovering from May arthroscopic surgery on his right knee (his third minor knee procedure in less than four years), intends to be louder and prouder than ever. He has been chilly to the Steelers' beat writers because he thinks they made too much of his lighthearted declaration that he would "have something to say" to President Bush when the team visited the White House in June. (In the end Porter merely declined Bush's invitation to do the Boot.) But there's little chance that Porter will remain subdued for long.

As he said on a hot, dusty late-June afternoon while turning his Dodge Ram 500 onto Rosedale Highway in Bakersfield, "If you don't want me talking, tell the media not to even come near me, because you're asking me to tuck my tail, and I don't get down like that. I'm through doing the pat-on-the-back interviews--'He's great; we'll have our hands full.' I mean, when we say that s---, who are we really doing it for? The coaches? Do they all have a pact: 'Don't bash my players, and I won't bash yours'? Who are we trying to protect?"

Driving past a large field dotted with oil rigs, Porter stuck his head out the window and let out a loud yell--"Woo-oooo!"--into the barren expanse. Though the temperature had reached triple digits, this was anything but hot air. "People try to make it like, If you speak your mind, you're a bad guy," he said, his eyes gleaming. "But hell, I'm 29 years old. I'm a grown-ass man. No more lying."

Open Mike
Read Michael Silver's take on the league every Thursday at SI.com/nfl.

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