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Jake Ballard could benefit from lost 2012 season in Patriots tight end battle

Posted by Erik Frenz  July 26, 2013 01:47 PM

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass — It wouldn't be an NFL offseason if every team didn't go through some changes, but the Patriots are in a particularly tight spot at tight end, with Aaron Hernandez in jail and Rob Gronkowski on the mend from back surgery.

The question marks go beyond the two big names.

Jake Ballard, acquired from the Giants off waivers last offseason, spent the entire 2012 season on injured reserve recovering from an ACL injury he suffered in Super Bowl XLVI.

Now, he's trying to make a comeback to the field, amid a sea of young faces.

It wasn't a completely lost season for Ballard, who took advantage of being with the team during walkthroughs and team meetings, and watching the games.

"It definitely helped," Ballard said. "Any time you can just do classroom work, not even take the field — I was out here for all the walkthroughs during the week and all the game planning — you kind of get a mindset of what the coaches are thinking, what everybody else is thinking, and then just little tips or hints on each route or each run play. It definitely helped out a great deal."

His knowledge of the offense, in that sense, is a step ahead of the rest.

It will help in what will be a deep battle for roster spots.

"We've got a lot of capable tight ends right now," Ballard said, "and we're going to do whatever they ask us to do. It's not like the tight ends a disappearing position.

"I'm not worried about the other guys as much as what I can do to improve."

TEs.pngBallard also has experience on his side, with the second-most career receptions of any tight end on the Patriots roster.

The first day of training camp was an improvement for Ballard, compared to his performance at OTAs, which looked "stiff" in the words of colleague Ben Volin.

While it is only the first practice of training camp, it's worth noting that Ballard's movement looked smooth when running routes, which is an impressive leap, especially considering today's practice was held outdoors in the rain.

Ballard's off to a good start, but with a tight competition brewing at his position, there's not a lot of room for slack.

"Right now, I'm just worried about tomorrow and being good to go tomorrow," Ballard said, "so we'll take that when it comes, but right now, I just need to get ready for practice tomorrow and get better."

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About the author

Erik Frenz delivers analysis of the biggest news with the Patriots, including insight into the AFC East and New England's biggest rivals from a Patriots perspective. Erik is an interactive writer who engages his audience in his posts’ comments sections and on Twitter. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. More »


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