Stallworth's a risk worth taking, but let him talk

February 22, 2010|By Kevin Cowherd

Let me begin by saying I have no problem with the Donte' Stallworth signing, which undoubtedly comes as a tremendous relief to the Ravens.

I'm sure that just before the signing went down, Ozzie Newsome sat in his office at The Castle thinking: Gee I hope the fat guy at The Sun is OK with this.

Well, I am. Now if the Ravens' GM really wants to impress me, he should trade for another veteran wide-out (Malcom Floyd?) or draft a big, strong receiver to add more depth - even with Derrick Mason now saying he wants to return.

But let's get back to the Stallworth signing and why it's not a bad move.

Look, a couple of weeks ago, everyone was hammering Newsome to go out and get a wide receiver.

Mason was making noise about retiring. Mark Clayton disappeared in too many games. Kelley Washington was considered a third receiver at best. Demetrius Williams was a bust.

Well, guess what?

Newsome went out and got a wide receiver.

Sure, it might not be the wide receiver everyone wants. Stallworth comes with so much heavy baggage you'd need a crane to lift it.

He killed a pedestrian while driving drunk last year and sat out the entire season on a league suspension. He's injury-prone. He's had an up-and-down NFL career, mostly down, and caught just 17 passes for 170 yards and one touchdown in 2008.

But if his head's on straight now and he gets in shape and is hungry to put the past behind him, maybe he can help the Ravens.

Remember, he's only 29. He still has some speed left after seven seasons in the league. And, at one time, he was considered talented enough to be the 13th pick in the 2002 draft.

But if he doesn't help the Ravens, it's not the end of the world.

After all, signing Stallworth cost the Ravens almost nothing. I know, that's easy to say when it's not your money.

But a one-year deal for $900,000? NFL GMs have been known to throw office parties when they get a wide-out that cheap.

Another thing I like about the Stallworth signing is it shows the Ravens are willing to take risks.

At the "State of the Ravens" news conference this month, owner Steve Bisciotti said he was fine with giving a second chance to players with off-field issues and so-called character problems. Newsome said he was open to all options, too.

Now we know they weren't just blowing smoke. Signing Stallworth was a bold move. I give the Ravens credit for going outside their comfort zone on this one.

Now let me knock them for this: What's the deal with not making Stallworth available to the media right away?

On the day of the signing, Newsome said in a statement: "We want Donte' to spend some time with our coaches and his new teammates before he meets with the media."

Oh, yeah? How come? Sure, it's understandable if Stallworth is leery about discussing the whole DUI-manslaughter charge.

I'm sure Tiger Woods didn't want to step up to that lectern at PGA Tour headquarters and talk about the sex scandal that has made his life a nightmare.

But that's part of manning up and accepting responsibility for the problem so you can move forward.

Woods didn't take any questions from reporters, but that might be because the shame and embarrassment are still so raw. Plus he's still undergoing therapy and trying to save his marriage.

But Stallworth should take questions. He has had a year to think about the accident and all the pain he caused.

If you believe, as I do, that the media serves as a conduit for the fans, Stallworth should talk about the tragic mistake he made and let us know what he's doing to move forward and become a productive NFL player again. He owes the fans that.

For now, he's saying all the right things, at least according to the statement the Ravens released after his signing.

"I will never get that morning back," he said. "It weighs on me every day and will for the rest of my life."

He said he'll try to be a better person. He said he wants to warn others of the dangers of drinking and driving.

Good. He could have said all that to reporters and been none the worse for wear. Why keep him off-limits to the media until offseason workouts next month?

Still, the Stallworth signing was a pretty good first move to strengthen the Ravens' receiving corps, Ozzie. But that's all it should be: a first move. With all the questions surrounding free agency in an uncapped year, no one's really sure who's going to be catching the ball for your team next season.

You need more help at that position, maybe a lot more.

The draft is in April. And the clock is ticking.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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