Tears streaming down his cheeks, Dexter Manley, who has given so many eloquent speeches about the dangers of drug use, admitted he hasn't heeded his own advice and has lost another battle with drugs.
Manley, a former Washington Redskins star who has spent the season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, announced his retirement from pro football yesterday at an emotional news conference -- before the NFL could suspend him again for failing another drug test.
"I recently had a setback," said Manley, who then lost his composure for 15 seconds before continuing. "The fact it has happened, even if it's only once, shows me I'm in trouble and that I must resume my battle with this disease."
He choked up again for seven seconds, wiped a tear from his eye and said, "Therefore it is with a heavy heart that I have come here today to announce my immediate retirement from the National Football League."
Manley did not identify the drug involved, but he admitted publicly a week after being suspended Nov. 18, 1989, that he had a problem with cocaine.
Manley was reinstated in November 1990 and was immediately waived by the Redskins and claimed by the Phoenix Cardinals. The defensive end was cut the Cardinals in August and signed by Tampa Bay. He had 6 1/2 sacks with the team, boosting his career total to 103 1/2 .
The NFL made it clear there's no chance Manley, 32, will be allowed to play again.
"At this time, I cannot foresee any circumstance under which Manley will ever play again the NFL," a spokesman said.
Manley's agent, Bob Woolf, said Manley will enter an outpatient drug program in the Washington area and will pursue a career in radio and television.
Manley's relapse shows how difficult it can be to fight a problem with cocaine.
Freddie Joe Nunn of the Cardinals, a teammate of Manley's last year who was suspended for four games in 1989 for drug abuse, said: "You're never cured. I wish there was a cure for it. It's something we've got to live with the rest of our lives. You've got to work every day 24 hours a day just to stay sober and clean."
Manley said, "I may have lost a battle, but I will win the war."
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said: "I just feel bad, really. I feel bad for him."
Gibbs had shown a lot of patience with Manley over the years, even allowing him to play in a 1986 playoff game two days after he missed a practice.
But when his yearlong suspension ended last year, the Redskins immediately waived him. They ran out of patience and decided they were better off without him, even though he had helped them go to three Super Bowls as one of the league's top pass rushers.
4 "It's the end of an era," Manley said yesterday.
This is at least the fourth time Manley has flunked an NFL drug test.
The league didn't announce it the first time, which is called a "first strike" in its program. The second time, in training camp in 1988, he was suspended for 30 days. The third time, in November 1989, he was suspended indefinitely.
This time Manley admitted he had a setback. When he failed the test in November 1989, he later admitted that he lied to commissioner Paul Tagliabue and to Woolf and denied he was using drugs. A week later, he admitted publicly for the first time that he had a cocaine problem. Before that, he would say only that he had a problem with alcohol.
Since admitting his problem, Manley has given many speeches about drug use, including one to the Lancers Boys' Club in Baltimore.
L He said at that time that he could survive without football.
"It used to be, 'Hell, if I don't play football, what's the use?' But, today, it'd be fine if I don't. You can have material things, but when it's all said and done, if you don't have dignity, you don't have nothing. I have self-worth and some dignity now. Fundamentally, I'm an excellent person," he said.
October 1985 -- Reported 3 1/2 hours late to practice at Redskin Park and ran his Ford Bronco into a truck minutes later while pulling out of the parking lot.
April 1986 -- Fainted in a department store restaurant and said it was a reaction to seafood.
December 1986 -- Missed a day-after-Christmas practice two days before a playoff game.
March 1987 -- Was admitted to Georgetown University Hospital for 20 hours and then checks himself into a rehab center for 30 days in Center City, Minn.
July 1988 -- Was suspended for 30 days during training camp for flunking second NFL drug test.
Nov. 18, 1989 -- Was suspended for a minimum of one year for flunking third NFL drug test.
Nov. 25, 1989 -- Admitted publicly that he has a cocaine problem.
Nov. 19, 1990 -- Was reinstated, waived by Redskins and claimed by the Cardinals the next day.
August 1991 -- Was waived by Phoenix and signed by Tampa Bay.
Dec. 12, 1991 -- Retired from football after failing an NFL drug test for the fourth time.