The New England Patriots created a bit of a stir when they decided to place tight end Jake Ballard on the active/PUP list, but his stay on the PUP didn’t last long at all. In fact, the Patriots activated Ballard from the PUP yesterday after just one day on the PUP, and ESPN Boston’s Field Yates reported that Ballard was activated yesterday after passing a physical. He added that UDFA defensive back Kanorris Davis also passed a physical and was activated from the PUP as well, so we finally have some bits of good news on the injury front.
Ballard was reportedly able to practice yesterday as well, and it’s great to hear that his stay on the PUP was so short. That still doesn’t answer the question of how effective he will be coming off of microfracture surgery, and Ballard has shown us just how hard it is to come back from that sort of an injury. Zuri Berry, Tom E. Curran, and Ben Volin are three beat writers that have used terms such as “slogged through” and “rigid” to describe Ballard’s movements this offseason, and his injury has indeed been slow to heal. Volin also tweeted yesterday that he doesn’t view Ballard as a lock, which is a statement that I agree with. Though while Ballard isn’t a true lock, I would still be surprised if he were cut and can’t see him missing the 53-man roster with Rob Gronkowski’s status also up in the air (though I’m not really worried about Gronk long term).
There have been a lot of negative reports surrounding Ballard’s return from the injury and his ability this offseason, and there’s also the fact that he was never a full participant in offseason workouts. But that isn’t a surprise to me, and my issue lies with how Ballard bounces back once he is “back”. I’m confident he’ll be perfectly fine and healed up by the start of the regular season, but he was never fast, agile, or athletic to begin with. I want to know how much the injury has deteriorated those skills, and I believe some people need to temper their expectations of Ballard. He’s still going to be, as Yates termed it, a “reliable” player and a solid pass-catching and quality blocking TE who can replace a bit of what Gronkowski does, but a guy like UDFA sleeper Zach Sudfeld has more upside. Ballard should have a quality year, but we shouldn’t expect anything big out of him. It’s not impossible for him to make a huge impact, but I think he will make a solid impact by doing some of the little things.