Among the thousands of fans in attendance at last week's Patriots-Dolphins game in South Florida was Miami resident Donte' Stallworth.
Though he normally prefers to watch games on TV, he decided to see this one in person because of his close ties to the visiting team. He was also reported to have been on New England's radar the previous week when receiver/returner Julian Edelman suffered a concussion on Thanksgiving. But Edelman was healthy enough to play in Miami, until he sustained a broken right foot.
At that point, Stallworth, sitting in a booth high above the action, must've realized he'd soon be suiting up again for New England.
"No, I was hoping he wasn't hurt too bad," Stallworth said today from his new locker in Gillette Stadium. "Jules is a great kid. He's had a great year. It's unfortunate what happened with him. That's the way this business goes. I wish him a speedy recovery and wish him well."
Nevertheless, Edelman's misfortune presents a third opportunity for the 32-year-old Stallworth to contribute to the Patriots offense. He was one of the biggest names to join the club in 2007 on its historic run to the Super Bowl, and came back this past offseason before being cut at the end of the preseason.
Having played for half a dozen teams around the NFL in his career, the former first-round draft choice admitted to being disappointed that he didn't make the club again this year, but is grateful for the call to return now as the team enters the final quarter of the regular season, with an eye toward the playoffs.
"Better than sitting home watching 'Dexter' and 'Boardwalk Empire' all day," the always affable Stallworth laughed with reporters.
Expecting to get a call at some point, Stallworth retreated to his Miami home, where he focused on staying in playing shape over the past few months. He worked out for a handful of teams during his hiatus, but coming back to the Patriots seemed a natural fit for both sides.
"I have a lot of love for this organization. I have a lot of friends on this team. To say I was excited is an accurate statement," he freely acknowledged.
"That's one of the things that enabled me to come back here, the fact that I am familiar with the offense, played in it before. Being out as long as I have, it's still something – it's not like a video game where you can just throw someone in and they automatically know what's going on.
"Today was a good day for me. I'll be studying all night and doing the same thing tomorrow."
Losing Edelman, who's done for 2012 after being placed on injured reserve, weakens an already-thin Patriots receiver corps, but Stallworth should be able to help fill that void somewhat. Where it may be more difficult to replace Edelman is on punt returns, where he has blossomed into one of the NFL's best.
Stallworth has limited experience in that regard, but said he's willing to do whatever Patriots coaches ask of him.
"Just do what's expected of me. Take care of my business. Make sure I get reacquainted with the playbook, make sure I know it was well as I can," Stallworth concluded. "Just take it one day at a time… If I do my job, I don't have anything else to worry about after that."