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HARRIS: Donte Stallworth tries to stay in game after death-defying accident

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Donte Stallworth's butt was on fire.

He can laugh about it now, fresh off a workout Tuesday with the Redskins during their minicamp. Stallworth showed a discolored spot on his arm, a burn scar from the same hot air balloon accident in March that left his posterior in flames. The other scar, he assures his small audience, is something no one wants to see.

"My whole butt," he said, pointing at the scar on his left arm, "is actually worse than this."

Yeah, we'll take Stallworth's word on that. We'll also take his word that the incident in March that started as a birthday outing in Miami for his then-girlfriend was no laughing matter at the time. He wasn't fearful for his football future. Stallworth was fearful for his life.

He may be a long shot to make the Redskins' final roster. He's here on a tryout basis, though coach Mike Shanahan indicated Stallworth would be signed and invited to training camp in July. He badly wants to continue his football career.

If not? As he learned in March, things could be worse.

Stallworth said a hot air balloon ride was on his girlfriend's "bucket list." It wasn't on his, but he wanted to do something nice for her birthday. For an hour and 55 minutes of a scheduled two-hour ride, he said, it was quite nice.

But as it came in to land, the balloon got caught up in some power lines and the electrical surge left Stallworth and his girlfriend in flames. There were three propane tanks onboard, Stallworth said, so things could have been much worse.

Fortunately, the pilot did not catch on fire and he was able to extinguish the flames.

"We were very lucky and blessed to come away with our lives still intact. We lucked out — I can't even put it into words." Stallworth said.

"I'm very thankful, not only to be alive but for this opportunity I have here now."

Stallworth, who played collegiately at Tennessee, has had a 10-year NFL career with a very clear dividing line. He was suspended for the 2009 season after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter. He served a 30-day jail sentence.

He had at least 42 catches in four of the seven seasons before that incident. He's had a total of 25 in three seasons with three teams since — and 22 of those came with the Redskins in 2011. He only had one catch for New England last season before an ankle injury put him on injured reserve the next day.

Going into the 2013 season, he looks to be a piece of a puzzle that could well fit. Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson, Joshua Morgan and Santana Moss would seem to have dibs on four receiving spots. Shanahan has kept six receivers in one of his three seasons in charge, seven in the other two.

There's no question Shanahan likes him. He said Tuesday he thought Stallworth made a mistake signing with New England for last season "and when it didn't work out, I was hoping we could get him back.

"Hopefully, we'll get a chance to sign him. He impressed me today."

If he does make the team, his role will likely be limited. As a "depth" receiver, he may have to contribute on special teams or risk losing a spot to a younger player who can help there.

He's fine with all that. As much as says he enjoys watching football, he's not ready to do that full-time. The incident five years ago and the balloon crash in March, Stallworth said, have helped give him a deeper appreciation for what he does have. He'd like to continue in the game "for 2-3 more years."

"I still love this game," Stallworth said. "I still feel like a kid out here running around. This game has always been my first love. It always will be. This is something that is really special, for me to have this opportunity, and I'm just trying to make the most of it.

"[The accident] was a setback. I didn't want it to end my career. I still feel I can play and play at a high level. That's what I am trying to prove out here now."

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