ASHBURN, Va. — Donte Stallworth has a simple way of explaining what it’s like to be riding in a hot air balloon that clips a power line:
“It felt exactly like the cartoons,” he said. “When you see people getting electrocuted on cartoons, that’s exactly what it felt like.”
Except that it’s not funny. The veteran NFL receiver suffered serious burns in the accident three months ago. He since has recovered and is expected to sign this week with the Washington Redskins after taking part in Tuesday’s minicamp practice as a tryout player.
Stallworth said a balloon ride was on his then-girlfriend’s bucket list, so he surprised her with it for her birthday. The two-hour ride was smooth until the balloon hit the power line while coming in for a landing.
“Literally, my butt caught on fire,” he said. “And she was on fire as well.”
Both were airlifted to a hospital, but not before he burst out laughing while in the ambulance, much to the bemusement of the emergency workers.
“Ten years of playing professional football and I never been carted off the field,” he said. “And I’ve never even been helped off the field. If I had a knee injury, I was able to get up and walk away on my own. And I go on a hot air balloon, something that seems very peaceful for two hours, and I’m getting airlifted to a hospital, life on the line.”
Stallworth said it took a few weeks for the burns to heal enough for him to resume football training, and his former girlfriend is also doing fine. But the physical scars remain.
“My arm here was pretty burned,” he said, holding up his left forearm to reporters. “And I don’t think you guys want to see the other one.”
The Redskins, when they called him about a tryout, were actually more concerned about the high ankle sprain he had last year while with the New England Patriots. He passed a physical Monday, and coach Mike Shanahan said he hopes to sign the 32-year-old wideout.
“We’ll see where he’s at,” Shanahan said. “But he’s impressed me [on Wednesday].”
Stallworth also played with the Redskins in 2011. He appeared in one game with the Patriots last year before the ankle injury ended his season.