She was flustered, this being her first face-to-face experience with a Redskins player, so the request this afternoon for an autograph went badly. Still, the large and amiable fellow sitting just outside Adams Hall was obliging. Except that his penmanship was not quite immaculate.

"And who are you?" she asked after glancing at the pad.

"Mr. D."


"Dexter Manley."

"OOOOhhhhhh," she cooed, impressed.

Manley wasn't.

"That does not help," he said.

It surely doesn't. Manley almost works at getting his name and deeds etched prominently in the minds of every man, woman and child on the planet, as well as all the E.T.s and Ewoks also devoted to the National Football League. Last year, he often played as spectacular a game as he talked.

Yet one of the faithful hadn't recognized him.

Ah, but Pat Donovan knows Manley well. So do lots of less-talented offensive tackles about the NFL. Indeed, the Redskins were so impressed with Manley they volunteered to more than double his $60,000 salary. Ain't enough, he maintains. "The money's here," he said, "and I want some."


In a matter of minutes, Manley can be very reasonable and close to angry over his contract differences with the Redskins. It is one of the few topics that can turn a cheerful face sour.

"I don't have to have a (new) contract," he declared. "If I'm so unhappy (as it might appear from recent stories), I wouldn't be here in camp."

Later: "Course, I might get to the point where I'm totally unhappy."

Manley's agent suggests that could happen in a few days.

"Dexter thinks very highly of Mr. (Jack Kent) Cooke," Jim Kiles said from Washington, "and they are supposed to meet this week."

Apparently, they also are about from here to Upperville apart on salary.

Kiles said the Redskins' best offer was a four-year contract that would begin at $140,000 this season and end at $225,000. What Manley wants is a three-year deal for $250,000, $275,000 and $325,000, with a $150,000 bonus for his autograph on the contract.

"I thought we were close to a one-year deal," Kiles said. "A higher salary (for Manley) and right of first refusal (for the Redskins). But Mr. Cooke wanted a longer deal. And a longer deal will be very difficult. We're asking for a lot of money, because Dexter's a unique commodity."

He's that.

"I dream big and I live big," he said.

What he does best is rush quarterbacks. There are not too many defensive linemen with enough agility and strength to slip by a mobile mountain of blocker and smack a passer to earth quicker than you can read this sentence.

"And I'm one of 'em," he admits.

Immodestly, but honestly, he gushes: "I'll maybe lead the league in sacks and definitely lead the ball club (which he did last season with 9 1/2). No question I'll be all-pro. Totally dominate. The way I feel now, there's no question about that."


"He's improving," General Manager Bobby Beathard said, "but you like to see a player put up a track record before talking some of those figures. It's hard to convince people sometimes, especially young people, that you can't get it all at once. It's hard for people to realize."

Why a Manley, an obscure draftee unfamiliar with his pro position, would sign a multiyear contract is hard to fathom. Every agreement is predicated on the player making the team, so even a 20-year agreement would be worthless if Manley proved a dud.

If he belongs in the NFL, and Manley quickly proved that, management has the player for a relative pittance. Now Manley has some leverage. It's called the U.S. Football League. Anyone who spins turnstiles and quarterbacks would be a fine catch. That's why the Redskins asked to renegotiate.

"Look over there," Manley suddenly said, pointing toward the sports car being parked nearby. "Look at that plate."

It said "ALL PRO."

Sliding from behind the wheel and into Adams Hall was the offensive Manley, the other glittering phenom the Redskins are trying to coax into signing, wide receiver Charlie Brown. As with Manley, their offer of a lot is not enough.

If that planned meeting between Cooke and Manley either fails to happen or goes poorly, Kiles explained the options.

"Dexter could close down this season, play for $60,000 and be the lowest third-year player in the NFL," he said. The risks are obvious: Manley could get hurt, or play terribly. Either way, future bargaining would be ruined.

"Or he could really force the Redskins' hand," Kiles added.


"I leave the matter to your imagination," Kiles said, adding: "Dexter doesn't want to do that. He knows he's a necessary cog in the football side of the Redskins. But the money side is essential to running his life."

Kiles argues that if Manley had accepted the Redskins' offer, his being paid $225,000 in 1986 "could be a travesty. We don't know how good Dexter is. No one does."

Dexter does.

"There always are two games for me," he said, assuming for the moment that reasonable men will be fair with one another and he can concentrate on Cowboys instead of cash. "The Redskins' game and my game. We're gonna win, and I'm gonna beat the man in front of me. Quickness and strength are two of my assets. Along with confidence. Believing in Dexter."

Understanding Dexter sometimes can be as tough as blocking him, for he added: "I'm gonna have a great season. Goin' out in style. Have me a great year and hit the jackpot."