FOXBOROUGH – Donte Stallworth paid special attention to the few words Troy Brown said to the team after the first day of training camp Thursday about how short an NFL career truly is.
“If you're done playing after your first year, it's too short,” Brown said. “And if you've played 15 years, it's too short.”
Stallworth, a receiver, is 10 years into his career, having played for six teams. He left New England in 2007 then made stops with the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and Washington Redskins before returning to the Patriots, a veteran molded by a range of experiences on and off the field that he's been open to sharing with younger players on the roster.
“I can't believe I've been in the league already 10 years,” Stallworth said. “It's definitely gone by fast, so I tell them to take advantage of the opportunities you're given because you're never sure when it's going to be over.
“Personally, I know I've matured as a player, matured as a person. A lot smarter now than I was then. I think more so when I was back here at the age of 26, playing off of talent and now I've kind of developed into a smarter player, better route runner and things like that.”
He remembered being five years deep into his career the year he first came to New England in 2007, and still being one of the youngest players in the locker room, surrounded by players like Randy Moss, Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, and Brown.
“Now, throughout my career, I've picked up a lot of things, learned a lot from those guys and now that I'm in my 10th year I try to help those guys out,” he said.
The experience he's had to learn the most from, and the one that jeopardized his career and his livelihood, was the 2009 DUI manslaughter charges for which he was convicted of a felony.
The offense has evolved in his time away. Some things – like Tom Brady – will never change.
“He's still got it,” Stallworth said. “Even now that he's 45 years old, he's still making some good throws. No, he's the same guy. He's passionate, fiery and he keeps us all going. ”
Neither will the way coach Bill Belicheck drives his players in camp.
“Every day, like coach says, there's no light at the end of the tunnel,” Stallworth said. “Every day's going to get tougher and tougher and we're just going to try to string them together one at a time.”