HERNDON,VA. — HERNDON, Va. -- The National Football League said hello to Dexter Manley yesterday, and the Washington Redskins said goodbye.
As soon as Manley was reinstated by commissioner Paul Tagliabue after serving a one-year drug suspension, the Redskins made the long-awaited statement that they were releasing him.
Manley's reinstatement officially becomes effective today, and he'll go on the waiver wire at 4 p.m. Teams have 24 hours to claim him, and the clubs with the worst records have the first chance at him.
The New England Patriots (1-8) and Cleveland Browns (2-7) said they weren't interested, but Joe Bugel, a former Redskins assistant coach who is now head coach of the Phoenix Cardinals (2-7), repeated his statement of a week ago that he wants Manley.
Larry Wilson, the Phoenix general manager, said he wouldn't make a statement until Manley actually hits the waiver wire, but it'll be difficult for Wilson to pass on Manley after Bugel publicly recommended him.
Manley, who met with Tagliabue last Friday and expected to be reinstated because he has passed all his drug tests for the past year, said, "It's a new beginning."
Bob Woolf, Manley's agent, said the veteran defensive end, was "keenly disappointed" the Redskins didn't want him back.
Manley said last week that it would be tough to accept the fact he would never wear burgundy and gold again. But he had no complaints yesterday.
"I have no problem. I'll get a job," Manley said. "I'm just happy that it's over. I'm real grateful the commissioner has reinstated me and put a lot of confidence in me."
Tagliabue said Manley won't be able to play in a game until Dec. 9, as long as he gets in a "structured support program" by then. Manley can start practicing as soon as he is claimed, so he could be on the field by Thursday.
"I'll get on an airplane and go to the Super Bowl," he said.
It was no surprise that the Redskins didn't want Manley back, but there still was some debate about when the decision was made.
Bugel said it was made last Nov. 18 when Manley was banned for testing positive for cocaine use a third time. Technically, the NFL banned him for life, but he was allowed to be reinstated after sitting out a year.
"I knew what Joe [Gibbs] was going to do when Dexter was banned. He made a statement at that time," Bugel told writers in Phoenix.
Gibbs disputed that statement, saying, "I don't think it's really fair of Joe to say. I'm sure a lot of things were said last year. I don't remember saying that. I think as this thing moved and progressed, the situation totally changed from last year."
Gibbs told Manley on the phone yesterday that he wasn't taking him back.
Manley was suspended for 30 days in training camp in 1988 for testing positive for cocaine use a second time and was involved in several other off-field incidents before that.
"Several times we felt like it was all squared away and we were in good shape, but it never worked out," Gibbs said.
In retrospect, Manley might have been better off if Gibbs had cracked down earlier.
For example, Manley missed a practice the day after Christmas in 1986, and Gibbs started him in a playoff game two days later.
"I guess everybody is going to have to decide whether we were too tough or too easy," Gibbs said. "That's the problem that we face. I would be the first to say that maybe there's something else we could have done. There was a period of two or three years when a lot of things happened in there. Maybe the way we handled them wasn't the best. We did what we thought was best at the time."
The unanswered question is whether the Redskins would have taken Manley back if he were still in his prime instead of on the downside of his career at age 31.
Both Gibbs and general manager Charley Casserly were somewhat vague when they were asked about the reasons Manley was cut.
"You can't have a decision as important as this boil down to just one thing or two things," Gibbs said.
They both talked about the importance of Manley getting a fresh start and that the Redskins were happy with the seven defensive linemen they have.
But Casserly said the Redskins tried to trade Manley before the trading deadline and had no takers and that nobody knows whether Manley can still play after a year layoff.
"I don't think anybody can answer that question [if Manley can still play]," Casserly said. "Anybody who's taking Dexter doesn't know how good Dexter is at this point because he's been out of football for a year. This is like any other football player coming back from an injury."
Even Bugel wasn't guaranteeing Manley can still play, but he's willing to take a chance on him.
"Can he still play? We don't know," Bugel said. "You never marry somebody. If he can't play, sorry babe."
In his day, though, Manley was quite a player. Since the league started keeping sack statistics in 1982, he had 91 sacks. Only Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants had more -- 110.
Manley also stood out because he was the most talkative player on a somewhat colorless team. Gibbs doesn't want his players making controversial statements, but he could never get the message to Manley, who once threatened to knock out Walter Payton and "ring Joe Montana's clock" when he was coming back from back surgery.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House select committee on narcotics, criticized the NFL for reinstating Manley.
"Here we go again," Rangel said. "The leaders in professional sports are always talking about how they want to make a strong statement against drug abuse, but when they are faced with players who abuse drugs over and over and over, they talk tough and carry a small stick."