New England Patriots backup tight end Jake Ballard was expected to be the starter if Rob Gronkowski hits the PUP list (this is more than a likelihood at this point, regarding Gronk), but the fact that he still isn’t fully healed from severe knee surgery means that Ballard might not start (he isn’t even a lock to make the roster). Ballard is certainly a talented TE and capable of being a legitimate starter for the Pats, but even he admitted that he most likely will never be as good as he was before the injury. Let’s hope Ballard can turn it around with some more rest, but he is still very much dealing with knee issues.
Ballard missed Saturday’s practice, and a source close to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe stated that Ballard missed practice because of knee soreness and that it was a precaution. The bad news is that this shows that Ballard is still indeed having knee issues and isn’t fully healed yet, but that’s something we already know. The good news is that this confirms Ballard did not suffer any kind of setback and that the Patriots are closely monitoring Ballard’s health.
We’ll see if Ballard can practice today, and Howe wrote that Ballard’s recovery from microfracture surgery has been “normal”. This is a testament to how hard it is to come back from microfracture surgery and how severe it is, and we can only hope Ballard can be at least a solid No. 2 tight end for the Patriots going forward following the surgery. He was never the most athletic or agile tight end to begin with, so Ballard’s pass-catching ability has likely suffered. With time, I expect Zach Sudfeld to usurp Ballard’s spot and even become a great No. 2 TE behind Rob Gronkowski (I am really high on Sudfeld).