Many NFL players own pit bulls--Packers wideout Robert Ferguson has 12--but only 49ers safety Tony Parrish has Capone, a six-year-old pit who keeps his master from slowing down. "He has his own treadmill, on a 12-degree incline," says Parrish. "If I'm training, he's training. He'll do runs, he'll do walks, he'll jog for a while." Parrish trained Capone (right) himself. "First you walk him over the machine so he gets used to it, then have him stand on it," says Parrish, who began the training when Capone was 18 months. "You can't do it too soon," he explains, "it's not good for their hips."
Bears defensive end Michael Haynes says he started collecting turtles several years ago while getting his degree in animal sciences at Penn State. Now he and his wife, Stacy, keep more than a dozen at their home outside Chicago. "Nine red-ear sliders, desert tortoises and two ornate box turtles," Haynes says. The turtles swim in a 75-gallon tank, stroll in the garden and, to Haynes, are the perfect pets after a long day of taking a pounding on the field. "Unlike dogs and cats, which you have to play with all the time, they're pretty self-sufficient," he says. "You can just sit there and watch them."
Chad Brown may seem freaky with a Burmese python wrapped around his neck, but what would you expect from a kid who got a tarantula for his 12th birthday and now owns an exotic pet store in Littleton, Colo.? The Seahawks' linebacker says "people just don't understand snakes," and Cowboys center Al Johnson knows the feeling. He keeps his five-foot ball python, Cletus, in a 25-gallon tank--by popular demand. "Most [women] say ... if I take him out [of his tank], they are out of there," says Johnson. "But he's pretty nice. He's only bitten me once."
>> BIRDS, ETC.
Broncos receiver Rod Smith's parrot, Coco, is rarely far from his side, even during training camp. "She gives me someone to talk to at night," Smith (left) told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "She's relaxing for me." Lions fullback Cory Schlesinger feels that way about his cat, Bob, noting, "All he wants to do is eat and sleep." And then there is Jeff Zgonina. The Dolphins' defensive tackle raises bulls. "It's kind of amazing to watch a 2,500-pound animal twist in the air and jump and just try to abuse [a rider]," Zgonina told The Palm Beach Post. "They're amazing athletes."
MICHAEL ZAGARIS (PARRISH)
JACK DEMPSEY/AP (SMITH)
CLLYNN JOHNSON (BROWN)
JONATHAN DANIELS/GETTY IMAGES (HAYNES)
STAFFAN WIDSTRAND/CORBIS (TURTLE)