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Returning Stallworth balances football with philosophy

Donte' Stallworth rides with the philosophers of life in his quiet moments, but he runs with the cornerbacks for a living in the raucous world of the NFL.

The Ravens veteran wide receiver is as conversant on Carl Jung or William Shakespeare as he is on Vontae Davis, Jason Allen or Sean Smith, the trio of Miami Dolphins' cornerbacks that he'll likely run up against Sunday in M&T Bank Stadium.

The former psychology major at Tennessee has taken to tweeting inspirational messages from philosophers and famous authors, including Jung ("Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who look inside, awakes.") and Shakespeare ("Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.").

"I've always been a big fan of psychology and philosophy," Stallworth said this week. "I was a psychology major in college, so looking at a lot of authors and philosophers and some of the things they had to say — even way back before Jesus — you get these Greek authors and scholars and a lot of the things they said back then still hold true today."

It's safe to say that the psychological bend helped Stallworth get through the rough times of an up-and-down NFL career. Sunday, he is expected to play in his first NFL game since Dec. 28, 2008 — 23 months ago — and after dealing with a life-changing event.

On the morning of March 14, 2009, Stallworth's life took a tragic turn when he struck and killed a 59-year-old construction worker in Miami Beach. He spent 24 days in jail after pleading guilty to manslaughter while driving drunk and was suspended for 2009 by commissioner Roger Goodell.

Additionally, he is required to serve two years' house arrest, followed by eight years' probation, has lost his driving privileges permanently and is required to perform 1,000 hours of community service.

While not addressing specifically the manslaughter case, Stallworth intimated that he has taken a philosophical approach to March 14, 2009.

"Mainly, my outlook on life [is] making the most of every opportunity," he said. "You never know when it could be your last. That's one of the things I've stressed to my younger brother [J.J. Stallworth] — who's at Fresno State, actually playing football now — is you never know what can happen.

"I'm a person that tries not to look too much ahead at a time in the future and [I] try not to look in the past, but learn from it and, really, you just got to focus on the now. There's nothing you can do about the past or future."

Stallworth's return from suspension and, more recently, a broken bone in his left foot, is testimony to his commitment to reclaim a career that spanned four teams in seven years. The 13th pick in the 2002 draft by the New Orleans Saints, Stallworth was released by the Cleveland Browns on the day he was reinstated by Goodell, and signed with the Ravens on Feb. 17.

He impressed the Ravens with a tireless work ethic, devotion to the job and his professionalism.

"We worked him out, we signed him, he showed up the next day," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "Once he got a physical and was signed, he showed up the next day and never missed a workout. And to my knowledge, he has not missed a workout, a treatment or a meeting since he's been here. To me, that says it all."

When Stallworth broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot on Aug. 28 running a pass route against the New York Giants, his return to the field was delayed for two more months. But he approached that setback with the same mix of patience and persistence that got him this far.

He gets daily treatment on his foot, has had acupuncture and has climbed into a hyperbaric chamber three times a week to speed recovery. This week, he said, was more about getting game-ready than trying to take a full load of reps in practice.

"The goal isn't to run every route in practice, but to make sure I'm getting enough work day by day, getting better every day," he said early in the week. "I think that's the main goal."

Five days shy of his 30th birthday, the 6-foot, 204-pound receiver brings speed that few in the NFL can match. As a deep threat, he has touchdowns of 84, 76, 69 and 57 yards in the NFL. In 95 regular-season games, he has 32 touchdown catches.

What he brings to the Ravens is another threat in a passing game that overflows with playmakers.

"Just adding another weapon to the offense makes everybody's job that much easier," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "And he's definitely a guy you have to pay attention to. He definitely opens things up because he's a guy that can stretch the field and take the top off defenses. If he's on the field, coordinators definitely have to worry about him."

Cornerback Chris Carr watched Stallworth return to practice this week and said, "He looks the same as he was before. He looks just as fast and he looks just as good as he looked before. He looks fresh. He's catching the ball well, too, so it's really exciting to see somebody come back from an injury like that and look that well right away. That gives us a lot of confidence."

Just by his presence on the field, Stallworth will stretch the defense. His knowledge of the offense will prove valuable, too.

"He's just a good football player," Cameron said. "He can block; he can stretch the field vertically. You can run shallow underneath routes with him. He's smart, so we can play him in different places. The two new guys, T.J. [Houshmandzadeh] and Donte', have been in the system in other places, so they can play … all five spots and it doesn't confuse them. So it gives you flexibility if you have injuries or you want to tweak your game plan."

Stallworth said his emotions will be in check when he takes the field Sunday, but he admits he's visualized making the big play more than once during his rehabilitation.

"I definitely will feel good about being back," he said. "[But] I'd be lying if I said that just being back on the field would be good enough. If you ask any receiver in this game whether they're a practice squad guy or if they're a 10-time Pro Bowler, receivers are a union group of guys, but I understand my role and I'll play within the confines of my role. I'm not going to come back and expect to get 10 balls a game."

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