Even though it was taboo to say in public, it didnt take long for Donte Stallworth to have a good feeling about the 2007 New England Patriots.
The current Redskins receiver saw the roster constructed by coach Bill Belichick, especially trigger man Tom Brady, and knew the year would be special.
Honestly, we had a vision from Day One, Stallworth said. Bill would never let us talk about it publicly. We knew if we were blessed to stay healthy, guys stayed on the same page and we played 60 minutes, we would have a shot.
The Patriots indeed had a shot, setting a regular-season record with 589 points and winning their first 18 games before being upset in the Super Bowl by the New York Giants.
Winning every game except for the last one, Ive told guys I had forgotten what it felt like to lose, Stallworth said. Unfortunately, we lost the most important game of the year.
Stallworth and fellow receiver Jabar Gaffney, also a member of that New England team, face the Patriots on Sunday as first-year Redskins.
Gaffney arrived in 2006 and Stallworth was added with Randy Moss and Wes Welker when the Patriots realized they needed more firepower to compete with Indianapolis.
During the perfect regular season, Stallworth caught 46 passes for 697 yards and three touchdowns, Gaffney 36 for 449 and five scores.
It was a good experience, Stallworth said. I learned a lot as a young player, going to that program. They demand that guys come in and be professional. It was my sixth year, which on some teams means youre a veteran, but I was still one of the younger guys.
Said Gaffney: It was the best. Belichick pretty much gave me a lot of insight on the NFL. He makes his players be students of the game and he helped me out with that aspect a lot. Hes The Man.
Stallworth departed after one year, but Gaffney caught 38 passes the following season.
Jab could do everything well, Brady said. Hes just one of those guys that, from the day we got him here, he was just so reliable and dependable because he knew what to do and he did it well. You gain a lot of trust from the quarterback when all those things match up. I was bummed when he went to Denver.
Gaffney has been a pleasant surprise for the Redskins. Acquired in a trade from the Broncos after the lockout, he spent a good chunk of the season as the No. 1 receiver when Santana Moss was injured and has 46 catches for 665 yards.
Stallworth made the opening week roster, but was released in Week 10 only to return seven days later. In the three games since, he has played 92 snaps and has 10 catches for 111 yards for the season.
Both players could see a lot of time Sunday because the Redskins might go with more spread-the-field formations since Fred Davis is suspended.
Thats a good group, a lot of depth and a lot of quality, Belichick said. Stallworth is part of that and I think Jabar has done a nice job for the Redskins. Hes a very adaptable, very dependable player and Stallworth is real explosive and fast and can cover a lot of ground in a hurry.
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