In season, Morgan worked like a fiend at his job. Come February, though, his time was his own—and it wasn't spent on workouts. By 1981, he and Rholedia had two children, Sanitra, now 11, and Monique, 7. Morgan is quick to tell you that he is first and foremost a father; his off-season priorities favored his girls, not his girth. "Stanley used to do very little in the off-season," says Berry. "I think some years he came to camp after a six-month rest."
Berry was purged along with Pats head coach Ron Erhardt after New England's disastrous 2-14 season in 1981, and into their stead marched Ron Meyer. He arrived in Foxboro via Southern Methodist, where he had just engineered a 10-1 season, largely by ordering his quarterback to hand the ball to Eric Dickerson and Craig James. At New England, Meyer tore down the existing offense and rebuilt it around the run. It was the advent of stormy weather for the Steamer.
Meyer and his staff bent off Morgan's deep routes, changed his stance from a standing 2-point to a crouched 3-point and showed a clear lack of interest in any feedback from him. "That just blew me away," recalls Morgan. "They had some good ideas, but there are better ways to incorporate them than saying, 'This is my way, and from now on it's going to be my way or the highway.' You don't talk to a grown man the way you talk to a little kid."
Without Berry, the technician, to watch over him, Morgan admits that he "got lazy and got into some bad habits." Worse, Meyer's arrival coincided with a point in Morgan's life when his metabolism slowed but his appetite didn't. Desserts, late snacks and fourth meals began sticking to his middle. "Stanley had always been able to eat whatever he wanted and not gain an ounce," recalls Rholedia. "But the time came when, if he ate a gallon of ice cream—Stanley's an ice cream man—you could look at him and say, 'He just ate a gallon of ice cream.' "
After playing a career at 175 pounds, Morgan now weighed in at a pudgier 183. "In my glutes, that's mostly where it was," he says, patting his buttocks. But where it hurt him was in the hamstrings, which often tightened from hauling the surplus freight. Meanwhile, a mangled joint in his left pinkie, battered over the years, got worse—and Morgan dropped passes he shouldn't have.
Meyer started calling his number less frequently, and Morgan took to sulking. When a running play was called to the other side of the field, Morgan would jog a few desultory steps and then walk back to the huddle—overweight, underappreciated and desperately unhappy. "He called me just about every week," recalls Jackson, who had by then been traded to the Seahawks. "He would say, 'Man, I hate it here. I do not want to be here.' "
Morgan was no treat to be with on the home front, either. "Stanley is quiet, but in a joyous way," says Rholedia. "But there was nothing joyful about the way things were going with Coach Meyer. After it got to a certain point I just said, 'Stanley, either get yourself traded or get out of this game.' "
Meyer was trying to unload Morgan. He had rookie Irving Fryar and second-year man Stephen Starring who were just as fast, and they would catch the ball when it came to them. But the Patriots' owners, the Sullivans, knew what a healthy Morgan could do and said no to a trade. Midway through the '85 season, they opted to jettison Meyer instead. Morgan could not suppress his glee. "Stanley, is that you, smiling?" asked teammate Julius Adams. "I didn't know you had teeth!"
The Sullivans brought in Berry as head coach, but Morgan did not immediately come around. The spate of dropped balls had taken its toll. "If you're asking yourself, Am I going to catch this ball or miss it? you've got problems," says Jackson, who was brought back to New England as receivers coach two years ago. "Stanley had problems."
But his hands gradually regained their touch, and Berry kept Morgan on a steady course of self-improvement. In 1985, Morgan struggled early but then came around—as did the Patriots. They landed in the Super Bowl, where Morgan caught seven passes.