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Stallworth: New England a 'special place', returning kind of surreal

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff  May 15, 2012 12:43 PM

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Receiver Donte' Stallworth is back with the Patriots, five years after his first stint with the team, and on Tuesday said the allure of returning to the postseason and the friends he still has in New England made signing here an easy decision.

"Being here, it's obviously a special place and I've always had a lot of respect for Mr. (Robert) Kraft and really the whole organization and a lot of the players here," he said. "Still got a lot of friends on the team, so I just thought that it made a lot of sense for me to come back here and try to help this team win some ballgames."

While his return may have a ring of familiarity - Tom Brady is still here, as is Wes Welker and now Jabar Gaffney and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels - Stallworth said the 2007 season was long ago.

"A lot has changed since then and within that process last year, being with the Redskins, (who) didn't make the playoffs, that's something that I wanted to have an opportunity with me getting a little older and up in age, just wanting to have an opportunity to put a championship at the end of my name and I think we're one of many teams that has an opportunity to do that this year," Stallworth said.

Walking back into the Patriots' locker room, Stallworth needed a period of adjustment.

"It was interesting. It was a little weird feeling. It was kind of surreal," he said. "But honestly, I think it took about a week or so to get adjusted and to really realize that, hey, I really am back; it's not just a dream. It's been good being back and seeing a lot of the same, familiar faces -- friendly faces. So it's been good. It's been five years but not much has changed other than all the restaurants and stuff around here. That's a big difference."

He joins a large group at his position, but has the advantage of being in this system before; Stallworth had success early on the first time he was here, a sign that he picked up the Pats' offense pretty quickly, which not everyone does.

Stallworth also feels that he's a better receiver now, despite being 31 years old.

"I think [earlier in his career] I was really more relying on my talent. Now that I'm going into my 10th year, I think I run better routes now and understand different coverages and what teams are trying to do.

"That's a big thing because you always hear people say this game is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. I don't know who came up with that percentage, but I would say that it's fairly accurate for certain reasons. You just look at a guy -- not by any means, don't take this wrong like I'm comparing myself to Jerry Rice -- but Jerry Rice wasn't the most talented guy. But he was the best receiver to ever play this game just because he understood what defenses were trying to do. He understood the little nuances of zone coverages and things like that. That's something I've gotten a lot better at as I've gotten older in my career."

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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