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Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots Jake Ballard, Josh Boyce, Dane Fletcher at OTAs

The New England Patriots were missing four players at OTAs yesterday, with the lone “surprise” being second-year running back Brandon Bolden, who was spotted in a walking boot this past weekend with a left foot injury. Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski were definitely not surprising absences from yesterday’s OTAs, while Brandon Spikes will not be participating in the first, voluntary sessions of offseason activity for the Patriots. Spikes isn’t holding out or anything, though, he just wants to work out on his own and will return next month when minicamp starts.

Although TCU Horned Frogs rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce did not participate in drills, he was present at OTAs but is still nursing a foot injury after breaking a bone at the Combine. We won’t get to see how Boyce fits into the Patriots and his ability downfield until minicamps, but even then it’s definitely only a raw indicator.

Both tight end Jake Ballard and middle linebacker Dane Fletcher are headed for key roles next season as backups, and both players are coming off of ACL tears. Ballard reportedly showed no ill effects yesterday and looked solid catching the ball, and that’s what we need from Ballard as the No. 3 tight end. With Aaron Hernandez not participating in drills, Ballard was the team’s top tight end yesterday and holds an important role in case anything happens to Gronk (or Hernandez, for that matter). He’s a solid TE, and it’s incredible to think that he is the Patriots No. 3 TE.

Fletcher looked good yesterday and confirmed that he feels fine, so things are great on his end. He is a key backup linebacker for the Patriots and should be able to get plenty of time on special teams and on passing downs, as Brandon Spikes still hasn’t figured out how to hold his own in coverage.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

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Tags: Brandon Spikes Dane Fletcher Jake Ballard New England Patriots

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