Thursday April 1st, 2010

After striking 59-year-old Mario Reyes near dawn on a Miami causeway a year ago, Donte' Stallworth said he stopped his Bentley in the road, dialed 911 on his cell phone to report the accident, and got out of the car to see if Reyes was seriously injured. But he said he couldn't look at Reyes, laying motionless on the six-lane road. "You've got to send an ambulance right now, man,'' Stallworth told the 911 operator.

It was too late. Reyes died of the injuries suffered in the accident, when he had tried to run across the causeway to catch a bus on the other side of the highway, and Stallworth, legally intoxicated at the time of the accident, was charged with vehicular homicide.

"Shock was the first emotion,'' Stallworth told, in his first interview since the accident. "I drive that causeway all the time. I never see people running across it. [My reaction] was utter disbelief.''

But Stallworth said he blames no one but himself for the accident. "I have taken responsibility for the accident since it happened, and I will live with it for the rest of my life,'' he said. "I think about it every day. I think about his 14-year-old daughter [now, actually 15-year-old daughter Daniela] all the time. It's something I'll never escape.''

Stallworth, 29, signed a one-year, $900,000 contract with the Ravens on Feb. 17 after serving a one-year NFL suspension. He served only 24 days in a Miami jail -- a sentence that continues to draw fire from those who believe Stallworth got off easy. He is under two years house arrest (allowed to leave to practice and fulfill work duties with the Ravens) and then eight years' probation. He cannot drive for at least four more years, per his sentence. He also paid an undisclosed cash settlement to the Reyes family -- thought to be at least $3 million -- for causing his death.

The Ravens have kept a tight lid on Stallworth since the signing, shielding him from interviews until this one and a group session with Baltimore-area reporters Thursday at the team training facility in Owings Mills, Md.

The 13th pick in the 2002 draft by New Orleans, Stallworth never lived up to the promise of draft day. He's never caught more than 70 passes in a season; he's never had a 1,000-yard receiving season. And during early offseason workouts with the Ravens, in Owings Mills, Md., he says he is determined to turn his career, and his life, around.

"I told John [coach John Harbaugh] that I'm not satisfied at all with my career, and I'm so focused on playing well for this team,'' he said. "I told him my career, really, was a little disappointing to me. I haven't really taken care of my body the way I should. I think I have a lot more left in my tank. I think I've got a good five years left, with the shape I'm in and the maintenance of my body over the past year. I really appreciate the chance I'm getting here. John told me, 'You'll have an opportunity to turn that around.' That's all I can ask for.''

For more on the Donte' Stallworth story, read Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback.

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