FOXBOROUGH — Released by the Patriots during training camp Aug. 27, wide receiver Donté Stallworth had been idle ever since, working out near his Miami home with other out-of-work NFL players to stay sharp in case another opportunity arose.
The fact that it didn’t come until December mattered little to Stallworth.
“I’d rather it have been September, but December is not too bad,’’ Stallworth said Wednesday, speaking to reporters for the first time since he was re-signed by the team Tuesday. “It’s better than sitting at home and watching ‘Dexter’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire’ all day.’’
Stallworth, 32, a nine-year NFL veteran, never thought the opportunity would come the day after he attended the Patriots’ 23-16 victory at Miami Sunday. The win wrapped up the AFC East title for the Patriots, but it came at a price when wide receiver Julian Edelman suffered a season-ending foot fracture in the second half, prompting the Patriots to put out a call to Stallworth the next night.
“I was just hoping that he wasn’t hurt too bad,’’ said Stallworth. “Jules is a great kid and he’s had a great year. It’s unfortunate what happened with him. That’s the way the business goes and I wish him a speedy recovery and I wish him well.’’
While lamenting the loss of Edelman, Tom Brady welcomed the return of Stallworth, who played the 2007 season in New England after signing as an unrestricted free agent. He played 16 games (9 starts) and had 46 receptions for 697 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“It’s always nice to see familiar faces and people that have played within our system and kind of understand the expectations for that position,’’ Brady said. “Donté is really a professional, so it’s great to see him.’’
Said Stallworth, “I’m just blessed enough to be able to get a call and to have an opportunity. Now I’m just excited to be back and hopefully I can make the most of my opportunity here.’’
Bill Belichick was effusive in his praise of the Texans Wednesday, saying they excelled in all phases of the game, particularly on third-down defense.
Coordinated by Wade Phillips, the former head coach of the Broncos, Bills, and Cowboys, Houston’s defense has been stingy on third down, allowing opponents to convert a mere 28.2 percent, tops in the league.
This seems to set up a battle on third down between the Patriots offense, which owns the league’s best conversion rate (52.6 percent), and the Texans’ stout defense, anchored by defensive end J.J. Watt, the AFC leader in sacks (15½).
“I think they’re a good defense on every down,’’ Belichick said. “But on third down, they rush well and they cover well. [Kareem] Jackson and [Johnathan] Joseph have done a good job all year for them [at cornerback], but they’ve had other guys come in there and do a good job for them.
“Of course, they can rush and create a lot of long-yardage situations, so that’s helped their pass rush. They’re a good third-down defense, one of the best in the last 9-10 years statistically at under 30 percent, which is pretty impressive.”
Walk right in
With extra time to prepare for the Monday night game, the Patriots conducted a walkthrough inside Dana-Farber Field House, their first day back after two well-deserved days off.
Defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle), left guard Logan Mankins (ankle/calf), and right guard Dan Connolly (back) were present for the media-access portion of the walkthrough. Jones and Mankins sat out Sunday’s game in Miami while Connolly started but left in the first half after aggravating his back.
Jones was spotted jogging around. There was no indication of his participation or his availability for the game since the team was not required to release an injury report.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has been out since Nov. 18 with a broken forearm, was not spotted during the walkthrough, along with running back Shane Vereen, offensive guard Nick McDonald, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Bolden is back
Running back Brandon Bolden, who finished a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, was back on the field Wednesday. Asked what the team planned to do with Bolden this week, Belichick said, “I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes this week. He just came back this week.” . . . The Patriots will honor retired left tackle Matt Light during a halftime ceremony Monday night. “I loved coaching Matt Light and I’m glad we had him on our team — he contributed a lot,’’ Belichick said. “He certainly knew how to needle and irritate people, sometimes in a good way. That was something that every team needs a little bit of, a little bit of a lighter side, a personality, and that was another one of his strengths.’’ . . . Boston Cathedral coach Duane Sigsbury, who guided his team to a 22-20 victory in double overtime against Madison Park in last Saturday’s Division 4A Super Bowl, was this week’s New England Patriots High School Coach of the Week for winning the program’s first Super Bowl championship.
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.