Jake Ballard isn’t quite the player Rob Gronkowski is, but he had a solid season for New York in 2011, with 38 receptions for 604 yards and four touchdowns. He started in Super Bowl XLVI against the Patriots, but suffered the left knee injury in the second half of the game.
New England’s OTAs are Ballard’s first on-field reps in 16 months.
Even without pads and with some limitations, he’s happy to be back.
“They’re not having me go full-go the whole practice. It’s not like they’re turning me to the wolves,” Ballard said. “I talked with the trainer and the coaches and they all tell me what I’m limited to do and what they think I’m going to be able to do. We just gradually improve from there every week and day to day.”
Ballard will be a sleeper if Gronkowski misses any regular season games. He was solid for the Giants in 2011, finishing 14th in fantasy points per game among tight ends.