But he really isn't. Weight clauses in his contract have forced him down to his present diminished state. "It's very noticeable," says Sherry. "He looked so small at the last game. But it was number 72, so it had to be him."
The Bears would like to see Perry shrivel down to 295. Fridge thinks 308 is a nice cozy playing weight. "Even when I was little, I was big," he reasons. But it seems the hefty old days of cereal in mixing bowls and ribs stacked like cordwood are gone. Beer is another matter, however. It is a sort of plasma for Fridge. "In college one time after a game I drank 48 cans of beer," he says. "Wasn't nothing. Just having a nice time."
Beer is the diet pill in Perry's slimming program. "You drink it, see, and it fills you up," he explains. "So you don't eat. Then the next day you sweat it out in practice, and you don't gain weight."
Still, there are times when dieting isn't enough, when Perry must call on his unofficial personal trainer, defensive end Tyrone Keys.
"He weighs in on Wednesdays, and sometimes he'll call at 10 Tuesday night and say, 'Ty, I gotta lose four,' " says Keys. "We'll go to the gym and run and sit in the steam till he gets down."
Keys helps his buddy because he doesn't want Fridge to eat himself out of a great career. He also enjoys observing Perry in action. "He's always making comments about fat guys, wherever we see them," says Keys with a chuckle. "During a game he'll yell, 'Look at that fat guy over there!' It'll be somebody like Dave Butz or Bubba Paris or Curtis Rouse. 'They're lying,' he'll say. 'He weighs more than 295.'
"It's funny, but Fridge never has considered himself a fat person. He feels at 285 he'd have to play receiver, he'd be so small. It's like the time we went to Mister Big. He bought a coat and had it tailored. Then we went to the spa, and he lost five pounds. When he picked up the coat, he wanted them to tailor it again. 'Take this thing in,' he said. 'Look at the slack.' "
During a recent road trip Perry put the fear of weight into his roommate, 185-pound cornerback Les Frazier. After watching a horror movie on TV, Fridge began sleepwalking, finally coming to rest on Frazier's bed. "It scared me to death," says Frazier. "He pounced on my bed. A man of that size...."
Stories like that make Bears president Mike McCaskey laugh. The Bears are a very loose, very good team, loaded with characters. And McCaskey approves. "Pro football is one of the last refuges in America for eccentrics," he says. And every refuge needs a refrigerator.