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Jake Ballard Patriots' answer for injured players?

The New England Patriots made waves last year when they scooped up Jake Ballard off waivers before the New York Giants could slide the tight end to injured reserve.

The move seemed wise given the uncertain state of the Patriots' depth chart at tight end. Rob Gronkowski's timetable is unknown with back surgery on the horizon. Aaron Hernandez is recovering from shoulder surgery.

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This means the door is open for Ballard, but will he be ready to help the Pats? Ballard has yet to fully participate in a workout, and noted that Ballard "continues to run with a discernible limp."

"I'm not full-go for the whole practice. It's not like they're just throwing me to the wolves," Ballard said. "I'm talking to the trainers and coaches and they tell me what I'm limited to do and what they think I'm going to be able to do and we just gradually improve from there day to day and week to week.

"I'm doing the best I can to be 100 percent and I'm doing as much as I can, as much as they're allowing me to do out here. I feel like I'm putting in some good work and getting better."

Ballard's last game action came in the Giants' Super Bowl XLVI win over the Patriots. He hurt his knee in that game, and the fact that he remains in the recovery process nearly 16 months later highlights the seriousness of the injury.

Gronkowski and Hernandez are talented players with medical red flags. Ballard fits right in.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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