Donte' Stallworth has warm feelings for the Baltimore Ravens, the franchise that gave him a second chance as a football player.
It was the Ravens who signed Stallworth after the one-year suspension and short jail term that followed a driving under the influence manslaughter conviction in 2009. But the wide receiver, who will become an unrestricted free agent when the lockout is lifted, has regrets about his limited time on the field in Baltimore.
âYeah, thereâs mixed feelings,â Stallworth told the Carroll County Times in Friday's edition. âThe 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.â
Stallworth broke his foot in an Aug. 28 preseason game and didn't make his Ravens debut until October. By that point, the team had signed veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, relegating Stallworth to a reserve role. Stallworth finished the season with just two catches for 82 yards and five rushes for 45 yards.
âWe 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,â Stallworth said. âI didnât really get that chance for whatever reason, but I still have a lot left in the tank.â
Stallworth's fate with the Ravens is all but sealed, a reality the receiver is aware of. The team drafted University of Maryland speedster Torrey Smith in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft and it's expected the rookie will assume a key role in the offense.
Stallworth has no ill feelings toward Smith, who he's worked out with in Miami this offseason.
âThatâs my boy,â Stallworth said. âIâm excited that he got drafted by Baltimore. I know the coaching staff wanted to get younger and faster at that position and thatâs exactly what they did. Heâs a really good kid.â
It remains to be seen what kind of interest Stallworth would draw among NFL teams. The free-agent and trade market figures to be flooded with veteran wide receivers like him. It's certain he won't get a contract that comes close to the seven-year, $35 million deal he got from the Cleveland Browns before his suspension.
âI canât say exactly where Iâm going to go, but there are a few teams that like me that Iâm interested in as well,â Stallworth said. âIâm 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, Iâll have that opportunity.â