Dexter Manley, noting he's been drug-free for 375 days, said yesterday he is "very optimistic" about his chances of being reinstated by National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue next week.
Manley, the Washington Redskins defensive lineman who was banned for a minimum of one year last Nov. 18 for drug use, said he has a meeting scheduled with Tagliabue in New York Friday morning.
Manley, who is eligible to be reinstated on Sunday, said he has passed every drug test he's been given in the past year.
"I'm excited and elated about everything," Manley said. "I'm ready to step on the field right now and play. I'm excited about coming back and getting on with my life. I'm like Rocky. Rocky III. I'm on the way back. I'm one of those guys who hasn't quit."
Although it will be difficult to return in the middle of the season without training camp after a one-year layoff, Manley said he has been working out and is ready to go for 75 plays. That's the average number of plays a defensive unit plays in a game.
The Redskins have refused to comment on Manley's status, but they've added three defensive linemen to their roster this year -- Jumpy Geathers, Tim Johnson and Eric Williams -- and all indications are that they plan to release Manley if he's reinstated because the trading deadline has passed. The team tried and failed to trade him this year.
Manley said he'll make his home in Washington when his career is over and would prefer to play with the Redskins, but is prepared to go elsewhere.
"Whatever is supposed to happen is going to happen," he said. "If I'm with the Redskins, fine. If not, it'll be a loss on both sides, my loss and their loss. I'd love to finish up with Washington. The fans are fantastic."
But if the Redskins don't want him back, he named three teams he'd be interested in -- the Denver Broncos, the Miami Dolphins and the Los Angeles Raiders.
"I like all those grass teams," he said, a reference to the fact that they all play on grass fields.
Manley was in New York yesterday preparing for a network television interview with Greg Gumble today. He then will speak at the University of Connecticut today and at Yale University tomorrow.
"Can you believe it?" Manley said of his appearance at Yale. Manley went to college at Oklahoma State, where he was basically illiterate. He said he's been making speeches around the country on the problems of drug abuse and illiteracy.
Manley also said he spoke a few weeks ago with outgoing Washington Mayor Marion Barry and is interested in opening a drug program with him, "if I stay sober and he stays sober." Barry was recently sentenced to six months in jail on a drug charge that is being appealed.
Manley was never arrested on drug charges, but flunked NFL drug tests at least three times. The second time he was suspended for 30 days during training camp in 1988. When he flunked a third time last November, he was banned.
"I was sober a year and a half and I made one mistake and I paid dearly for it," Manley said of his relapse last year.
Manley had refused to admit publicly his cocaine use until he was banned last year. He then underwent therapy in a drug clinic in Houston.