New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski is headed for back surgery that will likely take place in the middle of June, so he is going to miss at least part of training camp and has a chance of being placed on the PUP list and missing the beginning of the regular season. While it is too early to wonder when Gronk will be back, it isn’t too early to talk about what Jake Ballard‘s impact is going to be in 2013. Ballard was a talented TE for the New York Giants, and it is just downright rich for the Patriots to have Ballard as the No. 3 tight end on the roster. That once looked like a luxury, but Gronkowski’s injuries and Aaron Hernandez‘s past injuries make it seem like Ballard is more than just the third-string tight end; he’s a key insurance option.
Ballard told ESPN Boston that he is working to be 100%, ”I’m doing my best I can to be 100 percent, and I’m doing as much as I can, as much as they’re allowing me to do out here. When I’m out here I feel like I’m putting in good work and getting better.”
Although Ballard reportedly hasn’t looked fully healthy in training camp as he continues to recover from a severe knee injury, that was too be expected. The important thing is that Ballard has consistently been participating in OTAs, and he has also looked solid for the Patriots in OTAs. Ballard is able to catch passes at a solid rate and move the chains for the Patriots in practices thus far, and Ballard is certainly on the way forward in his recovery.
With Gronkowski’s future cast in some doubt, Ballard becomes even more important for the New England Patriots. While he was expected to have some sort of a role in the offense as a No. 3 guy, Ballard could be the Patriots top option in the “traditional TE” role if Rob Gronkowski’s recovery doesn’t go as planned or hoped.
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