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WESTMINSTER — Donte’ Stallworth tilted his helmet slightly, glancing toward the middle of the field before delivering a hard jab step to the outside as he rapidly created separation from cornerback Cary Williams.
His acceleration was unmatchable, and Williams was left behind.
Stallworth burst upfield to haul in a long touchdown pass over his shoulders Tuesday morning from backup quarterback Marc Bulger.
It was a snapshot of the Baltimore Ravens wide receiver’s remarkable speed and a demonstration of why the team is optimistic that Stallworth could provide the pure deep threat this offense has lacked for several years.
Suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for all of last season and having served 24 days in prison last year after being convicted of vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence, Stallworth has shown that he hasn’t lost his trademark speed.
"I wouldn’t say as fast as ever, but just fast enough," said Stallworth, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds on a relatively slow surface when he tried out for the Ravens last winter. "Getting a little up there in age, I still feel like I have a lot of good speed left and it’s been tested out here. I’m feeling really good, feeling healthy and just trying to keep it that way and maintain it through training camp.
Getting the plays down and working continuity with the rest of the guys, I feel real good."
Competing with Mark Clayton to become the Ravens’ third wide receiver behind starters Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin, Stallworth is eager to relaunch his NFL career.
He hasn’t played in an actual NFL game since two years ago with the Cleveland Browns.
A fateful March morning accident after a night of partying in Miami Beach sent Stallworth to jail and cost construction worker Mario Reyes his life.
Stallworth ultimately pleaded guilty to a second-degree felony and reached a confidential multi-million dollar financial arrangement with Reyes’ family to avoid a civil lawsuit.
Stallworth celebrated his 30th birthday last week.
Signed to a one-year, $900,000 contract this winter, Stallworth’s big salary days are over after being cut by the Browns one year into a seven-year, $35 million contract where he received a $4.5 million roster bonus the night before the accident.
Teammates have taken note of Stallworth’s strong work ethic, outgoing personality and hunger to prove he’s worthy of a second chance on and off the field.
"Donte’, the feeling that I get from him is that he’s just a great guy and wants to come in here and work hard," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "So, if it is that he has something to prove, then so be it. Hopefully it’ll motivate him to work hard. To us he doesn’t have anything to prove.
"He’s been great since he’s got here, and he’s been a great fit for this team. We welcome him here. He’s playing well, and I don’t care what motivates him as long as he’s out there doing what he’s been doing."
Teammates don’t bring up his past. Instead, they focus on his present and future.
"They’ve been extremely supportive," Stallworth said. "No one’s mentioned it. It’s in the past. Right now, it’s all about football."
In the Ravens’ locker room, Stallworth has found acceptance and understanding.
"I haven’t jumped into Donte’s world, but anytime you’ve gone through adversity you always have something to prove," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "All you can do is keep going forward. Don’t go backward. Looking at his heart from the outside in, he’s a man of humility.
"He’s a man that found himself in a tough time, but now he’s getting a second chance, and I believe he’s someone who will capture that opportunity and really run with it."
In seven NFL seasons since being drafted in the first round out of the University of Tennessee by the New Orleans Saints, Stallworth has yet to generate a 1,000-yard season.
His top statistical season was in 2005 in New Orleans when he caught 70 passes for 945 yards and seven touchdowns.
Now, Stallworth is simply eager to contribute.
There’s no sense of entitlement from Stallworth, who seems to be truly humbled after his legal problems over the past year.
"I just want to play," Stallworth said. "I’m just happy to be back. I have a great group of guys surrounding me, a great coaching staff. So, I’m just happy to be back. Whatever they ask of me to do, that’s what I’m going to do."