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New England Patriots to Start Jake Ballard?

It wasn’t that long ago, little over a year in fact, that the Patriots snagged Jake Ballard off of waivers from the New York Giants to the outrage of many. Ballard had been placed on waivers following a knee injury that was going to force him to miss the entire 2012 season, something the Patriots were well aware of when they made their claim. As such the move was perceived as one made out of spite; at best it was viewed as a bit excessive.

The Patriots were fresh off their Super Bowl loss to the Giants and did possess the best tight end tandem in the league with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, after all. The impetus of this move, at the time, seemed to sorely be lacking.

Oh, how time changes everything.

Fast forward to now, and Ballard figures to have a legitimate shot at being the opening day starter for the Patriots. While the general culprit, injury, plays a prominent role in Ballard’s rise up the depth chart, so does the firm hand of the law. Rob Gronkowski just had back surgery and Aaron Hernandez is in serious legal hot water. Both events Bill Belichick was surely preparing for, right?

Whether the crystal ball or savvy managerial skills prompted the move matters not. What does is that the former undrafted free agent, Ballard, now has a chance to figure prominently in the Patriots offense. At this point it’s not even a stretch to suggest that he could become Brady’s favorite target in his new set of receivers.

The irony and absurdity of this all is just never ending. Yes, there’s definitely something to be said for the fact that this starting position he could very well occupy was only made vacant by an ongoing murder investigation involving Aaron Hernandez. But, what about the fact that Ballard last played football against the Patriots in the 2011 Super Bowl? Or that the knee injury he’s coming off of was suffered during that game?

Ballard has still yet to recover from his injury, but all reports out of OTA’s seem to suggest he’s getting close. How he’ll play in this Patriots offense is yet to be seen, but by that same token he’s had over a year to study it. For whatever that’s worth.

You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV


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