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Washington, Stallworth Looking Forward to the Future

Kelley Washington majored in arts and sciences at the University of Tennessee. Donté Stallworth, his onetime Volunteer teammate, was a psychology major.

Today, it seems, they're students of history.

Washington and Stallworth were reunited this week when both signed free agent contracts with New England. Highly touted coming out of college, both players have suffered frustrating injuries in the NFL, limiting their productivity.

The two newest Patriot wide receivers are understandably excited, therefore, about their fresh starts here in New England.

"Health-wise, I'm fine," Washington declared via conference call during his first encounter with area media late Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to getting in our conditioning program and getting better and working with Tom (Brady) and working on the upcoming season."

In his media conference call, Stallworth addressed a recent Philadelphia Inquirer report that he's in the NFL's substance abuse program.

"All of that stuff is in the past," he said Wednesday. "There was a situation a couple of years ago, but there's nothing that's going on now that will affect me in preparing to help this team win ballgames."

Both receivers possess seemingly boundless on-field potential, which is why the Patriots weren't the only team interested in them. Once again, however, history influenced their decisions to sign here.

"I won a national championship in college, and that was one of the greatest feelings ever," Stallworth recalled. "I've played five seasons already (in the NFL) and my first year making the playoffs was last year. Not making the playoffs is not a fun thing at all…This organization has a great history of winning and I definitely wanted to be a part of that."

Washington agreed, "I believe the Patriots are just a great dynasty. I feel the system that they run there fits me perfectly and just the whole mentality there is all about team. I want to be a part of an organization that has dedicated itself on winning. You can't pass up being coached by (Bill) Belichick and getting balls thrown to you by Tom Brady."

When asked what skills each player brought to the Patriots, both receivers were confident, yet equally demure.

"I definitely feel I'm going to bring a physical presence on the football field being a bigger style receiver," the 6-3, 216-pound Washington observed, "but also being able to play inside…the slot receiver as well as the outside…and also my versatility.

"I've been…doing a lot of things on the special teams side of the ball," he added. "If that is what they want me to do, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to go in there and bust my tail, work special teams, work on the offensive side of the ball, just do whatever to help the team win…"

The speedy Stallworth, listed at 6-0, 196, was a first-round draft pick (by New Orleans in 2002), but he said Wednesday, "I don't see myself as a number one receiver. I'm just coming in looking at it as just another guy that can help make plays for the team to win ballgames…I'm not worried about making Pro Bowls and all of that stuff.

"The ultimate goal," he continued, "is to win a championship and hopefully before my time is up in this game, I will have won one."

Looking back on his five-year NFL career, the 26-year-old Stallworth spoke like a man who has learned from his mistakes.

"When I first came into the league, I made some immature decisions and it came back to really haunt me in the past couple of years. Your teammates are putting in the hard work. They're making sure that they're there on time and…obviously the coaches are doing the same. You have to do the same. You can't be different from everyone else…Not that I wasn't working hard, but it was just a perception, being late and things like that really doesn't sit well with your teammates.

"I had a couple of the older guys (in New Orleans) come and talk to me and explain to me that …it looks like I really don't care too much. Once I heard that, it kind of hurt me because I want to be a team player. I want to work hard and things like that. I think that kind of made me wake up a little bit..."

Washington, meanwhile, reflected with fondness on his time with the Bengals.

"I had a great time in Cincinnati…first-class organization…great coach in Marvin Lewis and definitely great players. I really learned a lot and I believe that the organization gave me a great opportunity to help my career."

One final historical note: the last time New England acquired a player directly from Cincinnati (Corey Dillon), the Patriots won the Super Bowl that same season (2004).

In this case, Washington and Stallworth would be happy to see history repeat itself.

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