You might recall the New England Patriots coach stealing Ballard off waivers last year, then stashing the tight end while he recovered from two knee surgeries. When Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez ran into two very different brands of trouble, Ballard was shaping up as a handy security blanket.
That was perception. Now, we have reality.
ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss wrote Tuesday it's apparent that Ballard is less than 100 percent, saying the knee issue is "still lingering." That came one day after ESPN's Chris Mortensen said on "NFL Insiders" that Ballard has "struggled so much there's now even a question whether he'll make the roster."
What people missed before boarding the Ballard hype train was the severity of the knee injury. Ballard underwent ACL and microfracture surgery after going down in the New York Giants' Super Bowl XLVI win over the Pats.
At 25, there's still a chance Ballard could return to his promising former form. But nothing is guaranteed. For now, Ballard has been passed on the depth chart by undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld, who has turned heads with his pass-catching skills.