Huddle Up: Don't blame Patriots for Giants losing Jake Ballard

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Jake Ballard caught four passes for 67 yards and a touchdown in a November game against the Patriots last season. He was injured after making two catches for 10 yards in the Super Bowl rematch. (Getty Images)


Throughout the NFL's lengthy offseason, "Huddle Up" will provide you with a quick take on an important story or development from around the league ...

Maybe instead of wondering if Bill Belichick and the Patriots did anything wrong by claiming ex-Giant Jake Ballard off waivers -- if they violated some unwritten rule by nabbing an injured player or if this was a pickup made out of spite, as some have suggested -- we should be asking why New York put itself in this position in the first place.

"I'm not going to have a lot to say about that one -- just the fact that we are disappointed," Tom Coughlin told reporters Wednesday. "Very disappointed."

But the Giants really have no one to blame but themselves here. Was it that critical for them to clear a spot on their 90-man roster by waiving Ballard, as opposed to stashing him on injured reserve come August?

Go ahead and debate all you want if New England broke a league-wide gentlemen's agreement here. A year or two from now, there might be 30 other teams kicking themselves for not doing the same thing.

Yes, Ballard will miss all of the 2012 season and, yes, he suffered major injuries to each of his knees last season. He's also a 6-foot-6, athletic, 24-year-old tight end in a league that has increasingly shifted its focus toward that position offensively. Given his first substantial playing time last season, Ballard made 38 catches for 604 yards and four touchdowns, and looked primed to become a top tight end in this league.

Maybe he never fully recovers from the torn ACL he suffered in the Super Bowl. Or maybe he's 100 percent healthy in 2013, which would give New England a third outstanding tight end option behind Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

In that scenario, this move could look even more intelligent for the Patriots -- Hernandez's rookie deal expires after the 2013 season, and it will be hard for New England to fully invest in him right now, given the bulky contract just handed to Gronkowski. So, if Ballard returns to form by next September, he might offer a pretty terrific fallback option, maybe even opening the door for New England to explore trading Hernandez.

"Whatever the options are based on what the rules are, based on the procedural circumstance, all is fair," Coughlin said of the Ballard transaction, according to Ralph Vacciano.

Coughlin's exactly right. For as "disappointed" as the Giants are now, and for as much as their fans want to cry foul, the Patriots held the absolute last spot on the waiver list. Every other team in the league had an opportunity to claim Ballard before them. There's not a single franchise out there that thought stashing a talented, young tight end might be worthwhile?

It's hard to believe, even when you consider Ballard's recent and prevalent injury history.