HERNDON — HERNDON, Va. -- "Dexter Manley helped put three Super Bowl rings on guys' fingers," Joe Bugel was saying last night.
The Phoenix Cardinals' head coach was saying that last week, too. His is one of the fingers Manley put the rings on in 1983, '84 and '88, when Bugel was the Washington Redskins' secretary of offense.
With a 2-8 team, being beaten by 12.6 points a week, Bugel is trying to sell his management on giving the fallen pass-rusher a new home.
Dexter needs one. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has reinstated him to play after a year of a "lifetime" banishment for drug abuse, but the Redskins have freed him "to get a fresh start somewhere else."
That, emphatically, is that, and Manley is gone after nine seasons and 96 1/2 sacks. But flamboyant Dexter, turned contrite, upstaged his old outfit one more time.
Coach Joe Gibbs took such pains in his Monday-after news conference to explain the positive thinking that went into the Redskins' negative decision that there was almost no time to detail the glories of Sunday's victory. And even less to view the revitalized Cowboys, Thursday's foes, with alarm.
It is in Manley's "best interest," Gibbs explained, that he "start afresh, start clean," as general manager Charley Casserly put it. And the Redskins don't need him.
They have "a full complement" of defensive linemen, Casserly's press release pointed out. "Seven guys," Gibbs called them, "who fought their guts out to make our team. I wasn't willing to take one of those guys and set him down.
"We like them all," Gibbs added.
He likes Manley, too, as he told him on the phone last week and again yesterday, after the commissioner's decision was announced.
"I told him I really appreciated all those plays he made for us," Gibbs said. "And the smiling face, his cranked-up attitude. He was always in shape, always the first one here in the morning.
"Tons of great plays," Gibbs went on. "We'll miss him. He gave a lot to us."
Asked "what if" those seven linemen hadn't been as healthy as they are, Casserly declined to say whether Manley might have been kept to fill the need. "That's a what-if and the what-if didn't happen," Casserly said.
Manley is, granting him his one-year difference with earlier records, 31 years and nine months old. He has not played for a year, since he was suspended "permanently" for his third drug violation.
Gibbs said, in answer to a question, that he thinks Manley still can play. So did Casserly, though he doubted he could match the level of the Manley who had nine sacks after 11 games last year.
"Anybody who's been out that long, it's going to take a while," Gibbs said. "Dexter's always been dedicated, but the problem is a long layoff is tough on anybody."
Asked if the smiling face and upbeat attitude had made it tough to be tough on Manley in his earlier aberrations, before he became a two-time loser, Gibbs said:
"I suppose everybody's going to say we were too tough or not tough enough. There were several times we thought [the problem] was all squared away."
Gibbs emphasized more than once that the decision on Manley was not based solely on the two stated reasons. Neither he nor Casserly suggested Dexter's dismissal might be a deterrent, discouraging present and future Redskins from adventures in cocaine or other drugs.
"There are some guys with more problems [than Manley] still playing in the league," Bugel said.
"He is a good player who has paid his dues," Bugel said. "He paid a deep, deep price and I have a deep respect for him.
"If it is the right thing to do," Bugel concluded, "we'll do it."
In the bottom-up waiver procedure, New England (1-9) would have first pick, followed by Phoenix and Cleveland, both 2-8. The waiver period is 24 hours, ending at 4 p.m. tomorrow.
The commissioner specified that Manley could begin practice immediately but cannot play a game until Dec. 9.