With Gronkowski on the mend from his fifth surgery this offseason alone, and Aaron Hernandez apparently about to be arrested for any number of charges ranging from assault to murder, it seems a good time for us to get to know Jake Ballard, the third Tight End on the Patriots' depth chart.
Ballard was an undrafted free agent as a rookie, coming off an average season at Ohio State he signed with the New York Giants and played for them during their championship run in 2010. He lined up against the Patriots on November 6, 2011 at Gillette and caught for 67 yards on the day including a key third down conversion.for 28 yards in one of his biggest games of the year. He lined up against New England in the Superbowl that year, but tore his ACL in the second half of the game and had to leave and miss the entire following season.
Immediately following his torn ACL the Giants placed him on injured reserve, figuring they could pass him through the waiver wire without anyone grabbing him up. They were wrong, as Bill Belichick snagged him right up, arguably violating some kind of unspoken ethical code amongst coaches, but also hopefully grabbing some good talent in the process.
Ballard is no Gronkowski, but at 6-6, 275 lbs, hands that can catch when they need to, and an oft injured body one can't help but be reminded of "Gronk". If Ballard can make it til Gronkowski comes back-and Gronkowski ever comes back-it'll be interesting to see what the two of them can do together on the field. If Hernandez manages to avoid the long arm of the law and line up on the field this year, Ballard could potentially be a reasonable replacement as we wait for Gronkowski to recover from his latest surgery.