OWINGS MILLS – The pending return of Donte’ Stallworth could provide a deep threat for the Baltimore Ravens’ offense, upgrading the receiving corps with his elite speed.
Stallworth is one of the fastest players in the league.
After breaking the fifth metatarsal in his left foot during the third preseason game, Stallworth is on track to be ready for the Ravens’ Nov. 7 game against the Miami Dolphins following their bye week.
"Obviously, he has a lot of speed and teams are going to have to prepare for some different packages when we get him back," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "Hopefully, he can stretch the field for us a little bit and at least scare some teams. We’ll see how much we can get him involved.
"We’ve got a lot of guys on this team that demand the ball and are good at doing things with the ball. So, obviously we’re going to have to be patient with him and let things happen. We’ll definitely see in the next coming weeks, because we’ll definitely try things."
Stallworth returned to practice last week after being sidelined since breaking his foot while running a pass pattern against the New York Giants.
"There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m going to be ready," Stallworth said in a recent interview. "The initial prognosis from the doctors when it first happened was for me to possibly be back by the bye week. That’s been the goal I’ve been shooting for. I’m actually right on track, if not ahead of that right now."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he doesn’t know yet if Stallworth will be active against the Dolphins, but is optimistic.
"I think he’s got a good chance to be," Harbaugh said. "He thinks he’s going to be. So, we’ll keep our fingers crossed."
Stallworth has averaged 14.8 yards per catch for his career with 32 touchdowns.
Although he has caught 296 career passes for 4,383 yards, but has battled durability problems throughout his career.
"As you know, he’s an explosive guy," Harbaugh said. "He’s a strong runner with the ball. He’s got the speed element. Obviously, that always helps. He’s kind of a little different than the other three that are playing mostly right now. So, that should help us."
Anquan Boldin leads the Ravens with 38 receptions for 518 yards and five touchdowns.
Derrick Mason has caught 26 passes for 357 yards and one score.
And third receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh has caught nine passes for 128 yards and one touchdown.
All three are regarded as possession receivers with some ability to run after the catch, but none have Stallworth’s ability to separate from cornerbacks.
Stallworth could potentially cut into Houshmandzadeh’s playing time.
"Everybody knows Donte’ is a fast guy," Boldin said. "He’s able to stretch the field. He just brings another playmaker to the offense. It’s a good problem to have. We have so many guys that can make plays on the field.
"When you look at it, the receivers that we have, getting Donte’ back soon, the running backs that we have, it’s almost like a three-headed monster in the backfield. It’s just trying to figure out a way to get everybody the ball, it’s a great problem to have."
Stallworth also used a special treadmill to get back to being able to run.
And he used acupuncture to accelerate the healing process.
"Terrifying. It’s terrifying," Stallworth said. "I’m afraid of needles. I hate ‘em, but it’s something I’ve got to do. Something that I’m not happy with, but if it’s going to help me get back on the field faster, then I’ll do it."
Stallworth said he’s unsure what sort of role he’ll assume once he’s back on the field.
He could be utilized on punt or kickoff returns to boost a sluggish return game.
"I’ve always been told never worry about things you can’t control," Stallworth said. "My main focus right now is just making sure that I can get back and when I am back, being as healthy as I can to help this team with whatever they need me.
"Going down the field, being a deep threat, whatever else they need me to do, I’ll try to make sure that when I’m back, I can do that and do it to the best of my abilities."