Let's just say this right at the outset: Donte Stallworth always seemed like a good dude. Sure, he might have blown it a little bit here in New England. The enduring memory of his time as the third receiver in the record-setting 2007 New England Patriots offense was him not quite making the big play. And frequently when the Patriots struggled that year (as much as an undefeated team can struggle), fans saw a frustrated Brady holding the ball and looking downfield — more often than not because Donte wasn't running his routes properly.
But through it all, Stallworth seemed like a thoughtful, gentlemanly type of guy — not your typical dumb jock. He didn't grouse about his demotion and didn't demand the ball more. He gave interviews when asked, and dressed and comported himself more like a jazz musician than an NFL wideout. When he left town for a big (seven years, $35 million) deal in Cleveland, nobody harbored any ill will toward him.
Stallworth missed the first four games of 2008 due to injury, and never really got it going, playing the role of slightly underperforming third fiddle once again (this time behind Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow) and catching just 17 passes for 170 yards. So when the question of paying a $4.75 million roster bonus came up a little over a week ago, it was tough to say if Cleveland would retain him. Most people around the league thought they would not. Then, to everyone's surprise, the seemingly cash-strapped new regime of Eric Mangini decided to keep Stallworth in the fold, paying him his money and keeping him to help out their next quarterback, who might very well be Jay Cutler by the time this article hits the newsstands.
The very next morning, March 14, Stallworth made the mistake of his life. Police in Miami Beach say he was driving in a Bentley at around 7 am when he struck and killed Mario Reyes, a 59-year-old crane operator who had just finished an overnight shift and was crossing the street to catch a bus.
Stallworth fully cooperated with authorities and in videos of the incident can be seen glancing back at Reyes as paramedics tried to revive him — later, in a statement, he expressed how "grief-stricken" he was over the tragedy. Making matters worse, several news reports this past week claim that Stallworth's blood-alcohol level was .14, well over Florida's legal limit of .08. Police, however, refuse to confirm the reports, and say the toxicology results won't be back until this week. No charges have been filed.
This is potentially one of the worst sports-crime stories we've seen in a while. Stallworth has returned to Cleveland to rejoin the Browns for offseason workouts, but it doesn't look good. He could get as much as 15 years for a DUI manslaughter.
We'll hold off on giving out points until we get an official story from the police. If it's as bad as it seems, though, this one could put Stallworth near the top of our list.
Left in the Lynch
Continuing the chronicle of oft-unpunished Marshawn Lynch: the Buffalo Bills running back announced this past week that he expected to be disciplined by the league for his latest arrest, a gun-and-weed charge.