Friday, August 17, 2012
Exploring Stallworth as primary returner
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There was some good kickoff return chatter at Patriots training camp Thursday, with Bill Belichick ultimately saying he wants improvement in that area.
One possibility is veteran receiver Donte' Stallworth as the primary returner.
Stallworth last returned kickoffs in a regular-season game in 2003 with the Saints, and the topic was brought up to him after Thursday's practice. His career stats: 8 kickoff returns for 171 yards (21.4 average) and two fumbles.
"I don't know why I haven't done it since," Stallworth said, when asked why it's been so long since he's returned a kickoff in a regular-season game. "I know the only reason I did it in 2003 was because our Pro Bowler [Michael Lewis] had gotten hurt for a couple of weeks. So they put me back there.
"I've been in Cleveland with Josh Cribbs, when I was in Philly we had [Brian] Westbrook, so I've been around some good returners. Whatever they have me do, I'm willing to do it. Who complains when you have the opportunity to get the ball in your hands? It will be a good opportunity for me to be able to get out there and hopefully do some good things with kick return."
Earlier this week, coach Bill Belichick said the 31-year-old Stallworth has shown in training camp that he still has his speed at this point of his career.
While there is more to returning than just speed, it's not a bad place to start, and Stallworth's work in this area will be something to watch over the next week.