He was a member of the undefeated 16-0 New England Patriots during the 2007-08 season. With that, he was also on the losing end of Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona. Coincidentally, Donte Stallworth's life outside of being a wide receiver in the NFL has had its share of ups and downs. But the one thing that's stayed constant with the 31-year-old is his love for New England and everything it represents.
I spoke with Donte Stallworth in a candid exclusive interview about his time with the Patriots, past and present, his relationship with Tom Brady and haunting moments from the 2008 Super Bowl.
Jen Royle: Simply put, how does it feel to be back in a Patriots uniform? Knowing you, it's surreal. Is that the right word?
Donte Stallworth: Yes, it is. Coming back to the Patriots has been great. Just being around for workouts and being back in the locker room, it's definitely been surreal. That was the right word. It took me a while to get used to being back here but it's a good feeling and I'm excited to be back and to be part of this organization once again.
JR: I've read a couple of local articles where you told reporters you're more mature this time around? How so?
DS: I think mainly because I'm smarter with my game now. Back when I was here, I was different in so many ways, on and off the field. I now have a better overall knowledge of the game because I've learned so much over the years. As you get older and experience more things in the NFL, you learn the game more and understand it better and better.
JR: Having covered you with the Ravens, I know how much you've thought about returning to the Patriots. What is it about New England that's kept your mind on returning?
DS: Just the way the organization is run from top to bottom. Everything here is geared towards winning. It's a winning atmosphere and it's nice to be part of that tradition. Getting an opportunity to play here is very hard for anyone to pass up.
JR: And I know you and Tom Brady have stayed close over the years. Describe your relationship.
DS: Yeah, Tommy and I have been pretty close for a while now. I actually knew him even before I was here in 2007 and we remained in touch with each other throughout the years. And it's been interesting to see both of our careers and how we've both matured and where we both ended up. Hopefully we'll be able to do some good things together this season.
JR: And same with [Patriots head coach Bill] Belichick?
DS: Yeah, I have a good relationship with Belichick. I think anytime he allows a man to be himself, that's a good thing. He allows us to be us. He doesn't have too many rules. His thing is you give everything to the team. You put the team first, take care of your business and that's all he asks. We are grown men and that's the way he treats us.
JR: It's no secret the organization has stocked up on wide receivers this season. What are your first impressions of the wide-out core?
DS: Well we've all been together since the spring trying to work together and get in sync with the quarterbacks. Even in training camp now we are working on getting in sync. We have a ways to go but our group has a lot of talent and experience. We're just trying to piece it all together, get better individually and improve as a group.
JR: You didn't get a lot of playing time in Baltimore and I know that was a frustrating time for you, with the abundance of wide receivers, do you have any expectations in terms of playing time?
DS: Not really. I just feel like the better I do in training camp, the rest will take care of itself. The way things operate around here is pretty simple. If you show them you can do well in practice then that will determine how much you play in games.
JR: You were part of that memorable undefeated 2008 team and now there's talk about this 2012 Pats team repeating. You of all people know how difficult it is to go undefeated. Is this crazy talk?
DS: Haha. We don't think about going undefeated, especially now in training camp. You're right, it's difficult enough to win one game in this league and we all know that 2007-08 season was a special year. If I could switch going undefeated for that ring, I would. But like I said, it's difficult to win one game but we also got pretty lucky along the way that season. But nobody is thinking about going undefeated here. That's the last thing on our minds. We are focused on getting better in training camp and we're looking forward to making each other better before playing the first preseason game against the Saints.
JR: Do you still think about that Super Bowl?
DS: Umm... You know whenever you're in that championship game you're always going to think about it whether you won on lost. It was a while ago and for the most part it was a great game. We wish we won it but those things happen.
JR: Last question, Jeremy Ebert, first impressions of him and have you been mentoring rookies more than in past years?
DS: He's a good kid. He's a smart kid... and he wants to learn. He's eager to learn. That's always good when you have rookies on your team that actually want to learn. For me, I've been in the league a long time and I learned a lot along the way and in my personal life. So for me, I try to pass on anything that can be helpful to rookies or the younger guys.
Jen Royle is a Columnist for SB Nation Boston. You can follow her @Jen_Royle on Twitter.