Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ballard's long-awaited return going well so far


While the surgeries seem like they'll never end for the New England Patriots' tight end crew, Jake Ballard isn't showing any signs of distress.

The 25-year-old was back on the field for the first time since his debilitating knee injury almost a year and a half ago, and according to Field Yates of ESPNBoston.com, nothing has indicated he would have any further setbacks.

Yates noted that the former New York Giant took a majority of the reps with the team, while also getting in his work with the strength training coach. That's good news for New England, which could use a reliable body at the moment at the position. (photo: Mike Morbeck, Flickr)

The Patriots' 1a option Rob Gronkowski, who reportedly is doing well following his fourth forearm surgery, still likely has at least one surgery to go — a back procedure to help an ailing disk.

"I hope we have him back for the full season," Pats owner Robert Kraft said Tuesday. "I know all the fans want that, and as an owner, I surely do."

That's an understatement, particularly since last year's No. 2 (1b) tight end, Aaron Hernandez, is looking at a four-month rehab for a shoulder surgery of his own. 

Ballard, despite lacking the obvious star power of Gronkowski and Hernandez, showed solid hands with New York and could easily plug into the team's passing game. He's also proven to be an effective run blocker, which may prove critical if the team stumbles in the first part of the season with its young receiving corps.

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