CARLISLE, PA., AUG. 14 -- Walter Stanley drives a truck with license plates that announce "Walter." He wears a ring in one ear and sometimes leaves Washington Redskins practices in what could pass for Tour de France combat gear -- a yellow cyclist's cap and black cyclist's pants.

He punctuates many catches by playfully spinning the ball on the ground, and celebrates touchdowns by circling near a beaten defender and spiking the ball between his legs.

Not everyone appreciates this kind of sportsmanship, and when he did it during a seven-on-seven drill against the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago, he was around to enjoy only about three more plays of that evening's scrimmage.

An unnamed Steeler took his revenge with a shot that left Stanley on the bench with an icy towel around his neck for the remainder of the evening.

He has nicknamed himself "Mr. Excitement" and says things like: "I have a little too much ability to let it go to waste."

Say hello to one of the newest members of the Redskins.

Stanley easily was the most surprising of the Redskins' 12 Plan B signees last spring, a receiver who apparently talked himself out of Green Bay last summer, then was left unprotected by the Detroit Lions.

He had offers from "14 or 15 teams" and took the one from a team that already had three of the best wide receivers in the game. But Stanley is special too. He was on his way to 70 receptions before getting hurt in Green Bay in 1988, and the Redskins wanted him "because he makes us a better football team," General Manager Charley Casserly said. "The bottom line is you say: 'Can this guy help you win games?' We think he can."

Stanley makes the Redskins receiving corps perhaps the deepest in football and gives the team probably the NFL's best punt returner -- his 13.8-yard average having led the league last season.

Three weeks into training camp, the Redskins are happier than ever to have him. Until he contracted a case of the dropsies in Saturday's 31-27 loss to Atlanta, Stanley had been one of the stars of camp. He is quick, runs excellent routes and almost always catches what is thrown his way.

He chose the Redskins "because I liked the situation. I have a lot of respect for Coach Gibbs. He went out of his way to make me feel special. After I visited in Washington, he phoned me a couple of times and that impressed me. I'd never had that before. I'm not going to say what we talked about, but we had some real good heart-to-heart talks. I became convinced this was the place for me."

His arrival appears to have put the squeeze on Joe Howard and Stephen Hobbs for the final wide receiver job. Gibbs said the Redskins might keep five receivers, but that would mean dropping a player from somewhere else -- perhaps the offensive line.

A bigger question is: Why was he available? Why was a 27-year-old receiver who caught 35, 38 and 28 passes for the Packers put on waivers last summer? Why did the Lions leave him unprotected after he had been a burner of a punt returner?

Redskins sources shrug and admit that, yes, he may have been a gamble. They discovered he once boycotted a practice in Green Bay and that some of his previous coaches say he occasionally has been hard to deal with.

But almost every team has players who are sometimes hard to deal with, and coaches usually accept this as one of the pains of dealing with some of the most talented athletes in the world.

Sources in Green Bay and Detroit were not specific about his problems, only saying: "It didn't work out."

Stanley's agent, Jack Mills, said: "I've been in this business 20 years and he's the best player I've ever had put on waivers in any sport. The people in Washington will see. He's a good person and a hard worker."

One of the incidents in Green Bay occurred after the 1988 season. Stanley injured his shoulder in Week 7 and when the Packers went back to camp the next year, he was on the second team.

Normally, players who are injured return to their previous position on the depth chart, and when Stanley didn't, "He didn't take it lying down," Mills said. "He was unhappy and he let them know it."

The Redskins said they heard almost all of the stories and decided the risk was worth taking. A team source said questions and investigations found that he appeared to be a solid enough citizen off the field and that he has never been involved with drugs.

"After talking to him, I felt he had a lot of character," Gibbs said. "But he's a very unusual guy to find available in Plan B. He could have signed with most teams and you wonder. We double-checked and had no questions. Then, after seeing him this summer and in camp, I kept looking for holes. I said the other day: 'There's got to be a problem. How could this guy be available on Plan B?' "

Likewise, Stanley said he came to the Redskins knowing he would have to compete for playing time and perhaps be more patient than in the past.

"I know with the guys they have here, they're going to use three wideouts a lot," he said. "Hopefully, they're planning to run four wideouts. That's what I want to see."

The Redskins had spent three years looking for a punt and kickoff returner, and all of sudden, they appear to be wealthy in that area. Howard came off the waiver wire to give them their best kickoff return man in a decade, and rookie Brian Mitchell may have opened a spot for himself with a 92-yard kickoff return against Atlanta last week.

At the moment, it appears Mitchell or Howard may handle the kickoffs, with Stanley handling the punts.

"That'll be fine," Stanley said. "It's one of those things where you have to be fearless. You have to take the attitude that you're going to be hit and some guys are going to try to take your head off."

His on-the-field celebrations may have others wanting to take his head off, but Stanley refuses to apologize.

"That's my time to celebrate," he said. "The way I look at it is that you work hard and that's your victory party. The one thing I don't do is taunt my opponent. I won't do that. But I'm going to have fun. Why play if you can't enjoy it?"