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Montee Ball signed to Patriots' practice squad

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In news that makes any playoff-eligible team in the AFC start to wonder if they've made a mistake, the Patriots have signed former Broncos second-round pick Montee Ball to their practice squad, the team announced.

A standout at Wisconsin, Ball was selected one pick ahead of New England back in 2013 when the Patriots took wide receiver Aaron Dobson with pick No. 59 overall. A pick after that, the Packers selected running back Eddie Lacy.

The hope was that Ball would diversify an already-electric offense in Denver run by Peyton Manning, though he never got far off the ground. Despite working with renowned running backs coach Eric Studesville, Ball only lasted 21 games into his rookie contract. He started three.

Ball had just one 100-yard game in Denver back in December of 2013, but did a nice job of cutting down on a fumbling problem that plagued his rookie season.

For the Patriots, this is looked at as the ultimate Bill Belichick move, right? He resurrected the careers of LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. He got late-career runs from backs like Corey Dillon and Fred Taylor. If you are a wayward running back in the NFL, there is no more soothing voice to hear on the other end of the phone.

On the same day that the Broncos reportedly are looking into a futures deal for former top five pick Trent Richardson, the message is simple: Supreme talent deserves second, third and fourth chances. For Ball, this is his second after slipping through waivers unclaimed in September.

Pass protection was part of Ball's undoing in Denver. Though the Broncos selected him out of college knowing this, and knowing that Manning required a quick-thinking, pass protection ace at running back, it was one of the reasons he struggled to stay on the field over other options. On New England's practice squad, he will have time to learn the finer points of a quick-strike offense that is less demanding for blocking backs.

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