This offseason has been, unquestionably, the most chaotic of the Bill Belichick era in New England.
Many fans were highly upset with the departure of Wes Welker to Denver. Many cringed when it was learned that Rob Gronkowski would need to have surgery on his forearm (again) and cringed (again) when it was learned that the All-Pro tight end would need to have surgery on his back (again). And many are currently talking everything but football when it comes to the situation regarding Aaron Hernandez and a deceased 27-year-old man.
Players are scheduled to report to Gillette Stadium for training camp on Thursday, July 25 and it’s certain that Welker won’t be there, certain that Gronkowski will be inactive and nearly certain that Hernandez won’t be there.
One solution to the Patriots problems, most circling around the fact that all three of Tom Brady’s favorite targets from 2012 could be out, could come in the form of an old foe. Jake Ballard, the former tight end of the New York Giants, caught two balls for 10 yards in the last NFL game he played, Super Bowl XLVI against the Patriots. The Pats then picked up Ballard on waivers in June 2012 even though the hulking, 6-foot-6, 275-pound tight end was injured at the time. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was said to be disgruntled at the time due to the transaction by the Patriots but Pats coach Bill Belichick didn’t seem to care.
“If a player’s on waivers, he’s on waivers,” Belichick told the media last June. “I don’t know what ‘unwrittens’ you’re talking about. Look, anytime you put a player on waivers, you know there’s 31 teams that can take him.”
Ballard had 38 catches for 604 yards and four touchdowns in 2011 with New York and appeared to finally be healthy after sitting out the entire 2012 season with an ACL injury.
“I watched (the Patriots) all last year, just looking over the playbook and mainly doing rehab,” Ballard said at OTAs in May. “I got a sense of what the offense is all about.”
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS