Spanning Browns Town: Donte's Choice, and The End of OTAs

Greg CookseyCorrespondent IJune 19, 2009

CLEVELAND - 2008:  Donte' Stallworth of the Cleveland Browns poses for his 2008 NFL headshot at photo day in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Getty Images)

We all do dumb things. I suppose that is probably the most basic fact of life as well as a obviously boring beginning, but it bears truth, and for the past three or four months it has been something that Donte' Stallworth's life.  

This week Stallworth found out that there are very harsh conseqeunces for making the wrong decisions. Especially when that choice results in life altering changes to someone or someone else's family.

This week after striking a deal with the family of a man who Stallworth struck and killed while driving intoxicated, he received a sentence after pleading guilty of DUI manslaughter that will leave him with plenty of personal problems over the next few years.

Now it appears that his professional career could be in jeopardy. Thursday NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Stallworth indefinitely and sent the following statement to Stallworth.

"The conduct reflected in your guilty plea resulted in the tragic loss of life and was inexcusable. While the criminal justice system has determined the legal consequences of this incident, it is my responsibility as NFL Commissioner to determine the appropriate league discipline for your actions, that have caused irreparable harm to the victim and his family, your club, your fellow players and the NFL.

"The conduct that lead to your conviction plainly violates both the Personal Conduct and Substance of Abuse policies. Either provides me with full authority appropriate disciplinary actions against you, including a fine or suspension without pay, and to impose appropriate conditions on your continued participation in the NFL. In this case there is ample evidence to warrant significant discipline under both policies.

"There is no reasonable dispute that your continued eligibility for participation at this time would undermine the integrity of and public confidence in our league. Accordingly I have decided to suspend you indefinitely, effective immediately."

Godel also told Stallworth that he would schedule a meeting with him and his representatives and himself to make a final determination of discipline, and ended his letter to Stallworth by stating

"Everyone associated with the league derives tremendous benefits from participating in our game from the extraordinary support we receive from the public. With these benefits, comes, among other things, the responsibility to conduct ourselves in a lawful and responsible way, with no entitlement to or expectation of favorable treatment."

This leaves both the Browns and Stallworth with the following question. Where do we go from here, and what next?

From the Browns side of things, if you look at the roster it may not be all to hard to replace Stallworth. They where able to give the WR position a much needed face lift with the additions of Brian Robiskie and Mohammad Massouqi plus there is Josh Cribbs in the fold as well as Syndric Steptoe, if you need him.

Can the Browns really afford to wait and see just what happens with Stallworth's situation? Effectively the answer to that question is no.

What seems to be clear is that it could very well be that Roger Goodell will wait two years—the amount of time that Stallworth will spend under house arrest or "community control" as I read it also referred to—before he even decides to review the case.  

Stallworth, who is 28, would only be hitting 30 by the time that two years pass. He still may be able to help a team at that age, but the truth is that the Browns have two years to wait for no one.

This is a team that will have to face harsh consequences if they do not identify their problems and fix them now. No longer can they afford to be dealing with players with off the field issues like they have in the past: Gerard Warren, Mike Sellers, and Reuben Droughns, and Darren Hambrick.

Time is of the essence for this team and unfortunately that is something they just do not have much of right now. They have other options to replace Stallworth with and it is time to give them a look.

From Stallworth's stand point all there is to do is wait hope and pray for another chance. He is going to have to pick up the pieces and get himself back together. He received a big break by only getting a 30-day jail sentence, because if he were an everyday average citizen he would be dealing with a lot more time then that.

Like Goodell said, he had a responsibility to conduct himself in a way that was appropriate and right being a public figure and he chose not to do that.

All of us do things that we know we should not be doing or even that we know are wrong that's just part of human nature. It does not make it anymore right but that is just what the fact is.

The fact also is that when we do those things we all have to face punishment or consequences for those actions when we commit them.

Donte Stallworth made the choice to get behind the wheel of a car while in a state of mind that he had no business being in that position in the first place. Due to him making that decision someone lost his life.

I am sure that no one told him to drive drunk, and I am also sure that if we could go back in time to the night of March 14th we would probably observe someone begging him not drive home. He did it anyway. Now he is reaping the consequences.

I feel for Donte' (as I do the family of the man that he killed) because I hate it when people who have the world at their hands make dumb decisions like this one.

I would not wish that on anyone because I like to see people doing well for themselves and to throw that all away because they cannot make a good choice is heartbreaking to me.

I wish Donte well but I hope that he has learned his lesson. It was Donte Stallworth that made this particular bed, and it is Donte Stallworth he will have to lay in it.

On to happier matters.


It is great to see how things have shaped up for the Browns as the off season team activities also known as OTAs wrapped up last Saturday.

There has been some complaining from some players Shaun Rogers, Josh Cribbs, and even Phil Dawson had his little pow wow. What's different is that when they have complained, their gripes have been short-lived.

This shows that things are starting to turn the corner with the new coaching staff. Players are being told that if they have something bad to say, Mangini and Kokinis want it brought to the, in hopes of preventing a media circus.

Other positive takeaways are listed below.

The guys who could not participate helping the youngsters

I especially liked hearing that Jamel Lewis was helping fellow running back and rookie James Davis. It has been said that the two have always had a close relationship coming from the same high school in Georgia, but that Lewis took him aside and gave him some pointers is terrific.

Davis, who the Browns selected in the sixth round from Clemson, was once thought to be a first day pick. But the second leading rusher in Clemson history somehow fell to the sixth round.

If he can apply what he is learning from Lewis the Browns continue to get good production out of Jerome Harrison, they could finally have the dominate rushing game they have lacked the past ten seasons.

A new Braylon?

I really feared that we would hear from Braylon Edwards a lot during the off season, especially while all the trade rumors were flying around. What I thought Braylon would have to say would not be good for Browns fans.

Surprisingly enough, Braylon has not done much complaining at all. As a matter of fact he has kept his mouth shut and worked hard, or as hard as he possibly can at least. When he did speak what he had to say was actually very complimentary, and he even said that he did not want to leave a bad taste in the fans' mouths.

Are we witnessing the transformation of Braylon? Or is this just a big act because he knows that this is a contract year? He does know if things do not go well he could just walk and cut his ties here, he seemed all to willing to do that towards the end of last season.

Only time will tell but for now Braylon appears to be tamer. I am sure that is the way Eric Mangini as well as Gorge Kokinis would prefer it as we all would.

Mangini seems to be building the team spirit he promised

I thought that Eric Mangini had a rather unique idea when he told the team he would cancel the afternoon session of OTAs last Saturday if an offensive or defensive lineman  caught a punt or a kickoff.

The reception that Rex Hadnot got when he caught Dave Zastuild's punt showed two things to me.

The first things is that Mangini is stressing the importance of hard work, but at the same time enjoying what you do. You cannot have the country club atmosphere that seemed to exist under Romeo Crennel, but you cannot over work guys and make them feel punished either.

It gave them a chance to fantasize a little bit, but it also gave them a chance to laugh and take a load off. Not just have a typical boring day at the office where nothing exciting ever happens.

It also helps bring the team together. The report that I read said that when Hadnot caught Zastuild's punt the team roared and swarmed him. That shows a team spirit and it is getting them to see that no one person is bigger then the other on this team. They will either win or lose as a team and it is starting to show.

I will admit to being very critical of Mangini because I didn't know if he could bring this group of players together. But he's managed to do that so far, while with some mixed results, there's been more good than bad.

The question is if can he do it during the grind of a hot late July and early August training camp and the grind of a 16-game regular season schedule.

That's all for this edition of Spanning Browns Town. In The next edition we will start our season preview in which we will break down each opponent on the Browns schedule this season.

Next time we'll break down their week one opponent the Minnesota Vikings plus my personal analysis on any news that breaks concerning the Browns.

Greg Cooksey Spans Browns Town every Monday and Saturday during the regular season and whenever there is news concerning the Browns.


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