When Dexter Manley's wife read Lyle Alzado's first-person article in Sports Illustrated last week about steroid use, she had one thought.
"She said to me that people would probably think I was on steroids," Manley said. "Our stories are sort of similar."
Both are defensive linemen. Both are flamboyant. Both had their lives turned upside-down by drug use. But Manley insists steroids weren't his problem.
"I wasn't on steroids. I was on cocaine," Manley said. "I didn't need steroids. I knew I was a great athlete."
But Manley said he hopes that other players learn from Alzado's story -- the way he admits he didn't learn from Len Bias' death in 1986 from an overdose of cocaine.
"When Len Bias died, I was doing drugs, and I said, 'This isn't going to happen to me,' " he said.
Manley was fortunate he kept his health, but he lost a year of his career when he was suspended in November 1989 for cocaine use.
Since Alzado went public, there's been much debate about how much steroid use there is, and has been, in the NFL. Alzado alleged that 75 percent of the players use steroids, a figure that former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure said is low.
Manley said he feels steroid use is down since the league implemented a testing program last year, but he said some of his former Washington Redskins teammates used steroids.
Manley said he didn't see steroids being used and won't say whether the players involved are still with the team.
The Redskins haven't had a player suspended for steroid use, and the team's strength coach, Dan Riley, has long been a crusader against steroids. He often puts anti-steroid literature in the locker room.
Another former Redskin, Rick Walker, said, "I don't know anybody who ever even mentioned the word steroids. It wasn't in the circle I ran in."
Manley says maybe they weren't used in Walker's circle, but insisted that steroids were used at Redskin Park and were used in his college days at Oklahoma State.
"I've been around. I know. I can look and tell. I know that's going to hit your paper, that Manley said it, but it's the truth. I'm going to call it the way I see it. What's the use of being diplomatic? I think steroids were used on the Redskins. No question about it," he said.
He said that early in his career, steroids weren't considered harmful.
"It was sort of a common thing. It's no big deal like it is now. It was just like the 5 o'clock club. Guys used to get stinking drunk at 5 o'clock out there at the shed [behind the practice field] all the time. It happened on the Redskin premises. It was OK," he said.
After former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann wrote about drinking in his book, the team cut down on the practice.
Manley said there's a difference between steroid and cocaine use.
"Hold your seat on this one, but this is a true statement. Steroids are used more among white Caucasians and street drugs are used more among blacks. I know people are going to be mad at me for saying that. It's not that I'm trying to be controversial. Hey, I've been there," he said.
He added that blacks as well as whites used steroids on the Redskins.
While there's no way of telling how prevalent the use of steroids is, there's no doubt there's more awareness of them now.
Alzado's former coach with the Los Angeles Raiders, Tom Flores, now Seattle Seahawks general manager, told a Seattle ++ columnist he knew Alzado used steroids, but didn't know the extent of it.
"Back then, we didn't know exactly what the dangers were. We were all very naive," Flores said.
Manley, who missed four of the past five training camps because injuries, suspensions and a holdout, may miss part of this one.
He hasn't reached a contract agreement with the Phoenix Cardinals yet and says he already has a vacation scheduled in Aruba.
"I have a disease for training camp," he said.
He may be risking his career if he misses part of camp. And he may be risking a chance to play at RFK Stadium in the third game of the year.
"It'll be a little bit emotional," he said of that game.
Although Alzado has focused attention on steroids, alcohol may the league's most persistent problem.
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue says he'll start suspending players for four games for serious alcohol violations, just as players are suspended for cocaine and steroid use.
It's uncertain whether this new policy applies to Reggie Rogers, who signed with the Buffalo Bills three weeks after being released Feb. 7 from prison, where he had been serving a 13-month term for killing three teen-agers on Oct. 20, 1988, in a drunken-driving accident in Pontiac, Mich.
It's also difficult to reconcile this policy with NFL telecasts that are filled with beer commercials.
The NFL's new expansion committee will have its first meeting in New York on Wednesday. It is likely to begin setting up a timetable for the evaluation of the cities, which is expected to start in September.