Ex-Giant Ballard, Once a Luxury For Pats, is Now a Necessity

With Rob Gronkowski's future uncertain, the Patriots will turn to form Giant Jake Ballard at TE.

With Rob Gronkowski’s future uncertain, the Patriots will turn to former Giant Jake Ballard at TE.

Things have funny way of working out in this world. Last June, the Giants tried to sneak their convalescing TE Jake Ballard (knee) through waivers before placing him on season-ending IR. He made it all the way back to the Giants’ facility before he learned he was claimed by the New England Patriots with just minutes to go in the waiver period. He, along with the rest of the people in the building, were confused and angry over the last-minute theatrics by Bill Belichick and Co.

What did they need Ballard for? They already had the league’s best TE corp with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and Ballard was not going to play in 2012. Was this done out of vengeance, stemming from the Super Bowl loss a few months earlier?

That could have been part of it. The real reason was that Belichick knows that even with Gronk and Hernandez, you can never have enough players. He was right.

Gronkowski broke his left forearm in Week 11 last year. He’s had two surgeries on it and now has incurred an infection in the plate which holds the bones together. He will eventually require a third procedure, which could keep him out of action for 12 weeks. Hernandez sustained a high ankle sprain in Week 2 last year, which limited his season to 10 games.

Ballard is walking into a situation where the Patriots will need him to step in almost immediately. He’s still recovering and will start slow, but the Pats expect him to be at full strength for training camp.

From Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald:

Jake Ballard is finally ready to hit the field, but the team is going to take it slow with him when the offseason program begins tomorrow at Gillette Stadium. Ballard tore his ACL in the Giants’ victory against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, and he is recovering nicely. But without the need to get overly aggressive, the Pats are taking the cautious approach.

The first two weeks of the offseason program are strictly limited to conditioning, and the following three weeks are “perfect play” drills, which fill the purpose of instruction and don’t allow the offense and defense to take the field at the same time. If Ballard is limited or even restricted to the sideline, the mental reps will still suffice before the intensity ratchets up in late May for organized team activities.