"Mature" Stallworth happy to be back

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"Mature" Stallworth happy to be back

FOXBORO -- This will be Donte' Stallworth's 10th season in the NFL. If he makes the final roster, it will be his second season with the New England Patriots.

Since his last stint with the Pats in 2007-08, he's played for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and last year, the Washington Redskins.

Amidst those three seasons, Stallworth found himself in some off-the-field trouble, after a DUI manslaughter charge in March of 2009 led to a suspension during the 2009-10 NFL season.

So standing in a Patriots uniform again, three years after that suspension, talking to reporters, he said he never truly believed his career would be over. But he certainly feels grateful to not just be back in the league still, but to also be back in a place he called home before the suspension.

"I always try to keep positive the best I can," said Stallworth after Friday's training camp session. "So, that never really honestly crossed my mind at the time. But now, looking back on it, knowing how blessed I am to still being here doing what I love to do, and being around the fellas, is truly a blessing."

Before Friday's session, Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised how much the veteran receiver has matured. And even Stallworth agrees. He's a different person and player.

"I know I've matured as a player, matured as a person," said Stallworth. "I'm a lot smarter now than I was then. I think more so, when I was back here at the age of 26, I was more so playing off of talent. And now I've kind of developed into a smarter player, a better route runner, and things like that."

Belichick also praised Stallworth's leadership, and while Stallworth doesn't look at himself as a captain, he does sound like a guy who the younger Patriots can certainly learn from.

"I really don't think of myself like that," he said. "I just try to go out and help out the young guys as much as I can, because I was once that guy. And anything that I see from the younger guys that they might not notice that they're doing, I try to pull them to the side and tell them some things here and there. But mainly, I just try to do the things that I've learned throughout my career.

"When I was back here in '07, it was my fifth or sixth year in the league, and I was still one of the youngest players on the team. Vrabel, Bruschi, Rodney, T-Brown, all those guys, Randy, all those guys, they were super veterans, and I was just a veteran at the time. Throughout my career, I've picked up a lot of things, learned a lot from those guys, and now that I'm here, I'm in my 10th year, and I try to help out the younger guys as well, the way that those guys helped me out along the way."

Stallworth's biggest piece of advice to the younger players, he said, is to take advantage of every opportunity given to them. And now, in his 10th year in the league, he's ready to try and take advantage of another opportunity with the Patriots.

"Any time you can come back to a great organization like this -- great fans, great people here in the city -- it's always a plus," said Stallworth. "And there was no doubt in my mind that, if they would ever welcome me the opportunity to come back, I'd jump at the opportunity."

Stallworth isn't trying to hide the fact that he's familiar with the Patriots' system. He is. But he does admit that the offense has indeed "evolved" over time, since he was last here.

"I think it's evolved, because when Josh McDaniels left, they incorporated some things while he was gone," said Stallworth. "And now that he's back, he's also incorporated some of the things that he brought back with him, that he didn't do when he was here the last time.

"That's what the spring was for. We were trying to string some things together. And here in training camp now, I think it's pretty much the same thing. That's what training camp is for. You put in a lot of stuff, and you see what sticks. You do what you do best, and you try to work on that as much as you can."

He'll work on that with Tom Brady, a quarterback and a friend to Stallworth.

"Even aside of football, I've known Tom even before I came here the first time," said Stallworth. "And we've kept in touch throughout the years. Just being in this offense before, it's really helped me, being here in the spring, being able to pick back up on some of the terminology and some of the plays. Right now, I'm just trying to string them together. So far, so good. But, there are going to be some times where it reaches some adversity on offense. And we've just got to fight through it."

But as close as the two are, and as familiar as Stallworth is with the Patriots' offense, even he knows how many talented receivers are currently on the roster, just two days into training camp. But he also knows it's a long grind. But he's ready for the battle.

"I think we have an opportunity to play really well this year," said Stallworth. "But we're a long ways from that. The training camp, or the dog days every day, the groundhog day, we have to keep stringing them together.

"We're all pulling for each other, and however things shake out at the end, that's the name of the game."

Putting Gronkowski deal in context after Washington gives Reed extension

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Putting Gronkowski deal in context after Washington gives Reed extension

Rob Gronkowski's contract with the Patriots continues to look like a relative bargain as tight ends around the league haul in big money on a per-year basis. 

On Thursday, Washington announced that it had come to terms on a long-term contract extension with tight end Jordan Reed. The deal is reportedly worth $50 million over five years, including $22 million guaranteed. 

That's not a bad pay day for a player who has missed 14 games due to injury over the course of his first three seasons. When healthy, he's proven to be one of the most dynamic players at his position -- playing more as an over-sized wide receiver at 6-foot-3, 236 pounds than a true dual-threat tight end -- and now he's being paid as such. 

Reed's new contract allows us an opportunity to take another look at Gronkowski's deal, which has come into focus ever since he sent out a tweet in March that indicated he felt as though he was taking a pay cut when the Patriots picked up an option that would keep him in New England through 2019.

In the tweet, Gronkowski said he doesn't play for the money -- and according to him he hasn't spent a dime of what the Patriots have paid him since entering the league -- but it seemed to be relatively clear that the structure of his contract was on his mind when he took to social media.

Gronkowski signed a six-year, $54 million extension in 2012. By then he had proven how important he was to the Patriots offense, but he had a lengthy injury history going back to his college playing days. At the time, a deal that both paid him at the top of the market and gave him a measure of security was welcomed with open arms.

Now here we are in 2016, and the market has shifted. The salary cap has increased and many teams have opted to pay their tight ends bigger chunks of the pie, sliding Gronkowski down the list of highest-paid players at that position based on average annual value. 

Reed and Seattle's Jimmy Graham ($10 million) now top the list. Kansas City's Travis Kelce ($9.4 million) and Jacksonville's Julius Thomas ($9.2 million) also fall in ahead of Gronkowski.

Considering where those players stack up with Gronkowski in terms of production, the Patriots' All-Pro seems to have every right to furrow his brow when he looks at his contract by comparison. 

It could be a while though before Gronkowski sees any alterations to his income, however. First and foremost, he still had four years remaining on his contract as it's currently constructed. The Patriots front office gambled and won with the deal they gave him four years ago, and barring a holdout, they'd have little incentive to re-work it. 

There's also the matter of where Gronkowski's deal falls in terms of the team's list of priorities. He's at least still paid near the top of the market at his position.

There are several of his teammates -- corners Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, defensive end Jabaal Sheard and receiver Julian Edelman -- who are either a) about to become free agents after the 2016 or b) could make the argument that they're even more significantly underpaid than Gronkowski. Some fall under both categories. 

As great as Gronkowski has been, and as important as he is to his team's success, he may have to take his place in line when it comes to receiving a deal that more favorably reflects his value. 

Tom Brady, Vanilla Ice look like BFFs at Under Armour event

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Tom Brady, Vanilla Ice look like BFFs at Under Armour event

Watch out Julian Edelman, Wes Welker and Alex Guerrero. Tom Brady just might have a new best friend. 

At an Under Armour event that took place on Wednesday, rapper Vanilla Ice snapped a selfie with the Patriots quarterback, who was grinning from ear to ear. 

In South Baltimore, "Armour Day" was held in order to celebrate Under Armour's 20th year in business. Brady was one of many athletes in attendance, including Jordan Spieth, Lindsey Vonn, Deion Sanders, Ray Lewis, Cal Ripken, Boomer Esiason and Roger Clemens. 

Brady is one of the faces of Under Armour, along with Spieth and Warriors guard Steph Curry. When he signed in 2010, he received equity in the company as part of the deal. 

Palazzolo: Mitchell ‘flashes really good downfield ball skills’

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Palazzolo: Mitchell ‘flashes really good downfield ball skills’

Fourth-round pick Malcolm Mitchell is the next in a line of receivers the Patriots have drafted in hopes they’d click with quarterback Tom Brady.

As part of the Quick Slants the podcast draft recap episode, Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus told Phil Perry that Mitchell looks to be a fit in the role previously filled by Brandon LaFell and Brandon Lloyd. Palazzolo said Mitchell could serve as a complement to Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Martellus Bennett.

“I think that’s where Mitchell fits in. And I think he does a pretty good job there creating separation on the routes the Patriots need him to run,” Palazzolo said. “He flashes some really good downfield ball skills.”

To hear Palazzolo’s analysis on the rest of the Patriots draft picks, use the Sound Cloud player below or search CSNNE on iTunes.