"I'm not a big eater; I've got slow metabolism." Bubba Paris, 305 pounds

"All my weight came in the winter, from drinkin' with my buddies 'cause there wasn't anything to do outside." Pete Johnson, 250

"Lookin' at a pizza commercial, I gain five pounds. I was born to bloat." Louie Kelcher, 292

Just breathing, they're movers and shakers -- of the ground underhoof. Side by side by side, they're a team picture. They don't snatch cookies; they chug the jar.

But not so routinely anymore. Truth is, before the eyes of astonished skeptics, Miami's Johnson and the 49ers' Paris and Kelcher have been melting for months.

Though hardly violets, they're shrinking, having realized there is a very good chance of eating and drinking themselves out of the NFL. And even though their combined weight still would sink a battle wagon, you should have seen 'em not so long ago.

Johnson probably is down 30 pounds.

Kelcher, the former Louie The Leaner, has shed nearly 60.

Paris won't reveal his scale-crushing tonnage, saying to the near-obese scribe who had inquired, "I don't want to talk about it. You should know why."

Anyway, it's possible that whatever might be molded from the combined mass the trio dropped would be as heavy as a Dolphins wideout. Larger than a breadbox, for sure, and fully capable of eating it.

Johnson wanted to be a Dolphin long before Don Shula thought that both possible and necessary early this season. So he was more than agreeable when Shula ordered him to reach the 250 pounds he carried to the Pro Bowl for Cincinnati three years and lots of belt notches ago.

He had been a bulky Bengal in more than the obvious way, chuckling: "I just refused to play (before being dispatched to the Chargers). But threatening to get to 300 pounds also helped."

It was as a Bengals fullback in the 1981 American Conference championship that Johnson took part in one of the storied collisions in sport.

Snorting in sub-zero Riverfront Stadium, Johnson revved all 280 pounds toward Charger Louie The Leaner, who was about 350 at the time.

"We knocked a few icicles off trees 200 miles away," Kelcher imagines.

Johnson is a John Riggins diesel who would be hauled off the highway for being overloaded. He also is capable only of short bursts in heavy traffic at important moments.

"Tackling Pete," said Dolphins teammate Lyle Blackwood, "you grab a ticket and take a ride for a little while."

Of the Dolphins' 18 regular-season touchdown runs, Johnson had nine. He carried just 69 times.

Incredibly, the league's largest battering ram was stopped cold by the 49ers during a magnificent goal-line stand against the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI.

"I even read somewhere," Johnson admits, "that they were in the wrong defense at the time."

So how come he got buried?

"Just luck."

Growing up, and out, Kelcher seemed to have a taste for everything but football.

"I didn't want to play in high school," he said. "I thought to myself, 'Unbelievable. What kind of life is this? Why play?' The coach was an ex-GI

"We had sign-up cards for sports my sophomore year, and I put down baseball and basketball. The coach looked at me -- I was 6-1 and 220 at the time -- and he said: 'You will play football.' "

When he balked, the coach hinted that phys ed class just might resemble boot camp. So Kelcher signed on. The team was terrible, but Kelcher blossomed to 6-5 and 250 pounds.

"I think I was born to be hungry," he volunteers, and also that he always surrendered rather than battle the bulge. But a brief experience with life beyond football convinced him to, well, shape up.

"I would have made a great food taster at a fancy restaurant," Kelcher said. "Watchin' Johnny Carson, I'd go through some doughnuts and the like. Also, a bag of Doritos with bean dip came in handy."

To ease his conscience, Kelcher washed everything down with Tab.

"Now I'm getting by on about 4,300 calories a day," he said. "I've become conscious, for the first time in my life, about what's right to eat and what's wrong.

"If I hadn't done that, I might not be here now."

Eventually, Paris would like to play at his high school weight, 289 pounds.

"They once showed us a before-and-after film of Kelcher," Paris said. "They could never show a film of when I was small. First time anybody wrote about me, I was 16 and weighed 264.

"I had a weight problem because I let communication about my weight get to me. Kelcher wasn't like that. He'd say something like, 'Let's get us a low-cal Big Mac.' "

Before tackling his body, Paris got his mind in order.

"I've been kicked, hit, bit," he said. "My answer is if a player is cussin' or doin' that other stuff, I say, 'The Lord don't like that.'

"I talk to the other guys (after plays). I'll ask 'em, 'Are you baptized? Are you saved?' I've had a number of different reactions to that.

"Gary Jeter (of the Giants and Rams) once told me, 'You got a helluva lot of nerve giving witness when you're sittin' here holding me like this.'

"Some people play through intimidation. But it's hard for players to do that when you're talkin' to 'em, saying, 'God loves you.'

"But some people are ornery. That stuff made no difference to Dexter Manley."