OWINGS MILLS — Donte’ Stallworth is eternally grateful for how the Baltimore Ravens gave him a job and a valuable second chance following his suspension and jail sentence for a driving under the influence manslaughter conviction.
Still, his pending departure from the organization as a free agent is accompanied by regrets about the broken foot that prevented him from establishing himself as a deep threat last season.
And Stallworth grew tired of being relegated to a lesser role as the predictable guy to handle reverses rather than catch passes.
“Yeah, there’s mixed feelings,” Stallworth told Ravens24x7.com in a telephone interview. “The organization was nothing but great to me. I appreciate the opportunity they gave me. The guys were great and the fans welcomed me. They tell me all the time they hope things work out for me and that I would come back. From the foot injury standpoint, it definitely derailed a lot of things that I was looking forward to doing.”
One of the fastest players on the Ravens, Stallworth eventually recovered from the broken fifth metatarsal and appeared in eight games.
However, he was limited to only two receptions for 82 yards and five rushes for 45 yards.
After Stallworth broke his foot, the Ravens signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh to a one-year contract and he became the third receiver. There was scant playing time for Stallworth in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s schemes.
“We picked up T.J. and he played really well and I was hoping that maybe at some time I would get an opportunity to do what I feel like I can do,” Stallworth said. “I didn’t really get that chance for whatever reason, but I still have a lot left in the tank.”
Stallworth’s role as a speedster stretching defenses never materialized and is expected to be assumed by second-round draft pick Torrey Smith, a wide receiver from the University of Maryland.
Stallworth has worked out several times with Smith in Miami Beach.
“That’s my boy,” Stallworth said. “I’m excited that he got drafted by Baltimore. I know the coaching staff wanted to get younger and faster at that position and that’s exactly what they did. He’s a really good kid.”
Entering his ninth NFL season, Stallworth has caught 298 career passes for 4,465 yards and 32 touchdowns. (Career highlights video below)
Coming off a career-worst season, the former New Orleans Saints first-round draft pick is hoping to catch on with a new team whenever the lockout ends.
The 6-foot, 220-pounder worked out for the Detroit Lions prior to signing with Baltimore last winter, and Stallworth recently caught passes from Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
“I can’t say exactly where I’m going to go, but there are a few teams that like me that I’m interested in as well,” Stallworth said. “I’m only 30 years old. I feel like I have a lot of years left. I can still do good wherever I end up next year. Hopefully, I’ll have that opportunity.”
Although Stallworth only caught a pair of throws from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, he’s excited about his potential.
“I like Joe,” Stallworth said. “I think from the time I got there he made a lot of progress. He’s not a fiery guy. Sometimes, those guys at the quarterback position tend to be criticized for whatever reason when they’re not that fiery or cursing at people.”
Meanwhile, Stallworth remains upbeat that the owners and the players are on the verge of striking a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement.
“I’m hearing a deal could get done right around July 4,” he said. “There’s a deadline of July 15 for us to have a normal preseason. There’s already been irreparable damage for the season. Look at a guy like Cam Newton. How is he supposed to compete with defenses like Baltimore when they haven’t had the opportunity to prepare? He’s going to get a few weeks and be expected to suit up and play like the No. 1 pick. That’s going to be tough.
“I didn’t think it would go on this far. I thought they would have something done in April. Here it is almost July and we’re just now closing in on a deal. It’s so much harm that’s been done. Hopefully, I’m wrong. I think this could be one of the worst years as far as team chemistry and continuity as far as having new players and the fundamentals of football, tackling, injuries, so many things. I hope everything goes normally, but you just never know with all the work we’ve missed. You can’t just put guys together and expect it to work instantly.”