Don Reese and Randy Crowder, starting defensive linemen for the Miami Dolphins before serving a year in the Dade County stockade for possession of cocaine, will be released Monday and both expect to play with the National Football League this year.
Attorney Nick Buoniconti of Miami, the former Dolphin middle linebacker, represented Reese and Crowder in court. He said he understands from clubs other than the Dolphins. The Dolphins reportedly are no longer interested in Reese and Crowder.
Peter Huthwaite of Sports Stars International Inc. of Detroit said yesterday he represented both players when they signed contracts last February with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League while in the stockade.
Ruthwaite said those contracts were canceled because of a dispute over the interpretation of the terms.
Huthwaite said Reese signed another contract in March. 1978, with Toronto, but that Crowder did not. The agent said Reese's second contract was canceled because the Canadian immigration department would not permit him to play because of the drug case.
Huthwaite said Reese has "several NFL teams" interested in him now but declined to name them. He noted that Crowder played out his option with the Dolphins in 1976 and received an offer in April, 1977, from another NFL club. The Dolphins matched that offer and were ready to sign him when he was arrested on the drug charge.
Huthwaite said Crowder flew to Washington during that negotiation period in April 1977 and talked with George Allen, then coach of the Redskins.
The Redskins, it was learned, are not interested in either player, even though General Manager Bobby Beathard drafted them when he was personnel director of the Dolphins.
A league spokesman said that when Reese and Crowder were arrested and charged, owner Joe Robbie of the Dolphins suspended them. The players filed a grievance with the NFL players Association, asking that they not be suspended until the drug charges were adjudicated. When the case was decided, the Dolphins put the players on waivers and no club claimed them. They are now free agents of a sort.
In an agreement reached by a player-club relations committee, it was stipulated that if Reese and Crowder were signed by other NFL clubs upon their release from the stockade, the Dolphins would be entitled to a No. 3 draft choice for each, after the players were active for a full year.
The league spokesman said that NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, as is the case with any player in such circumstances, will review the status of Reese and Crowder before they will be eligible for signing.
Buoniconti, explaining the disposition of the players' cases in a circuit court in Miami, said they were not convicted in the usual sense of the word.
He said there was a "finding of guilt" and that it meant there was a "withhold of adjudication," with probation arranged.
It was specified that after serving one year in the county stockade and undergoing four years of probation, the players could return to the court and ask to have their records expunged.
Buoniconti said he has talked with the players weekly.
"They have had a very tough year," Buoniconti said, "because it is a publicity-type case. For instance, they were not given the same opportunities as others in the stockade (for fear of public criticism of treating them as celebrities).
"I think it was a very fair sentences by the judge, yet they were treated a little harder than others. But if that is all the price they paid, it was worth it.
"They have been model inmates. They work every day; they do cleaning up and mopping floors. They tried to get out a month earlier but couldn't. At that hearing before the sentencing judge, stockade officers and guards came forward to testify that they were good inmates.
"They've learned a lesson and are no risk to society. They are anxious to take their place in society and justify the judge's sentence."
Buoniconti said the players may not be in football-playing condition because the facilities in the stockade were very limited. "But they ran, to do the best they could."