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