Defensive lineman Dexter Manley, who has yet to get a tackle or a sack in three games with the Phoenix Cardinals, and who saw action for only one play against the New York Giants Sunday, said this week he dreamed after the game that he had a cocaine relapse.
Manley said that National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who suspended him for a year on Nov. 18, 1989 for flunking a drug test for the third time, and a Washington Redskins official he couldn't identify also appeared in the dream.
"That is the honest-to-God truth," Manley said of the dream.
When he woke up from the nightmare in his hotel room and realized he hadn't used cocaine, Manley told a reporter for The Arizona Republic: "I woke up and said, 'Gawd, I'm in the hotel. Gawd, I'm free.' It didn't happen."
If Manley flunks another drug test, he would be suspended again.
Manley said he woke up at 4 a.m. Monday and was in the weight room of the Cardinals' complex by 6 a.m., where he met with the team counselor, Gary Mack.
"Sometimes dreams send messages," Manley said.
Manley said Mack told him the dream likely was a culmination of all the frustration he's gone through since he was reinstated by Tagliabue on Nov. 19, a year and a day after he was suspended.
The Redskins waived him when he was reinstated, and the Cardinals claimed him.
He practiced for two weeks before he was allowed to play on Dec. 9 against the Atlanta Falcons. He appeared in 19 plays in that game, but was down to just one play against the Giants.
Standing on the sidelines was a frustrating experience for Manley, who paced up and down and, teammates said, screamed obscenities at the top of his lungs.
"I've never stood on the sidelines that long, never," he said. "Gary Mack saved me a couple of times. I got in a real tense way. There were times I wanted to choke [defensive coordinator] Joe Pascale."
Manley said of Mack's role in calming him down: "If it hadn't been for him, I'd have blown my cool. I don't think I'd be here. I'd have lost control."
Pascale said Manley appeared in only one play because the Cardinals used a defense in which linebacker Ken Harvey lines up at the right end, where Manley usually plays.
Pascale also said that Manley has to learn the Cardinals' scheme.
"It's not just rush the passer," he said.
The big problem is that Manley, 31, is having trouble stepping in without training camp after a year's layoff. That would be difficult for any player.
Manley said the Cardinals told him he'll be on their 37-man Plan B protected list, but his future probably depends on how he plays in training camp next year.
"I remember him as being as dominating as a Howie Long, a Reggie White," Cardinals coach Joe Bugel said. "He was, at one time, rare. Whether he's still rare or not, I have to see. It's so unfair to bring a guy in for the last four games to get a real fair evaluation after a year's layoff. I think Dexter has to go through a training camp to be honest with him and everybody here."
Manley had been hoping to come in and make an immediate impact on the Cardinals, but that was probably an unrealistic goal.
If he doesn't get a tackle or a sack in tomorrow's regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, he'll finish the season without a tackle or a sack, which will make it a long off-season for him.
"When I talk to friends and they ask how I did, I'll have to tell them, no tackles, no sacks, a no-hitter, that's not good," he said.
Bugel said Manley may play a bit more against the Eagles than he did against the Giants because the Cardinals will need fast rushers to try and contain quarterback Randall Cunningham.
In his final game before he was suspended last year, Manley sacked Cunningham three times.
Manley said he still believes he can do it on the field next year.
"I know I'm quick," he said. "I'm fast. I'm strong and in practice I'm getting better. I want to please everybody. I want to be a people pleaser, and that's by working my butt off and proving it on the field. I've got all the tools; the self-confidence is there. It really is. Now I've got to be able to take that same confidence and put it on the field. I know I have it, but I've got to prove it."