Bill Belichick says Jake Ballard ‘keeps improving’ on road back from ACL surgery
|08.19.13 at 3:02 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When the Patriots claimed Jake Ballard off waivers from the Giants, they knew they would have to be patient with the tight end.
Bill Belichick says it’s a move that is paying off so far in camp this summer.
“Jake’s been pretty consistent all through camp,” Belichick said Monday. “He’s been dependable on a day-to-day basis. He’s got some experience. Big guy, long, he’s got good blocking skill. He’s done a good job in the passing game. I think with him, it’s just keeping it day by day.”
With the Giants, Ballard tore his ACL in the Super Bowl XLVI win over the Patriots in Feb. 2012. He was waived by the Giants as they tried to sneak him through waivers so they could temporarily clear a roster spot. The Patriots took advantage and saw his name on the wire and claimed him.
Now, with the Patriots without their top two tight ends from the last three seasons to begin 2013, Ballard has a chance to contribute. His production in the first two preseason games has been limited. Ballard has started both preseason games but has yet to catch a pass.
“He keeps improving, gains more confidence and he gains more experience, builds up his overall stamina and conditioning,” Belichick said. “He’s in good condition but just playing football, playing condition. I think we’ve had a good pace with him and he’s been able to have steady improvement through the entire course of camp, which has been good.”
Belichick also touched on the 1-for-7 performance of Tim Tebow Friday night, which including a 0.0 QB rating.
Does Belichick look beyond the stat line at the big picture and see positive steps for Tebow?
“Yeah, definitely,” Belichick said. “I think if you look at the entire week last week that it will look different than the game did. In some cases, the game looked better for some players; in some cases, the game didn’t maybe look as good as some things during the week. We’ll just have to try to take all that into consideration.”
Tebow is 5-for-19 in two preseason games, passing for just 54 yards and compiling a 17.7 QB rating.
“I think the passing game is still the passing game,” Belichick said. “All players have different skill sets and some guys do some things better than others. You have to look at the total package and what they’re able to do in all areas of the game. I think we see a lot of good quarterbacks in the NFL. They aren’t all maybe the best passers, but their ability to run and pass and make plays, however they make them – design plays, scramble plays, whatever it is – makes them a high level player. I don’t think there’s one specific style you have to have or don’t have to have. In the end it’s about production and being able to do enough things to be successful.”
Here is the rest of Belichick’s presser from Monday at Gillette Stadium:
BB: We’re back at it, practicing with ourselves. We need to kind of get back into that routine. This is going to be a little bit of more of a preparation week where we have to prepare ourselves for the game, unlike practicing against a team like we had the last couple of weeks. That was a really a luxury. Getting to know Detroit, running the plays that Detroit runs for our offense or defense, special teams, whatever it happens to be, that will be part of this week’s process. Just trying to kind of get a few more looks and evaluations at what we have and also just moving along with some of the installation that we didn’t have the last couple weeks because we were working against other teams; try to catch up on some of that. See if we can kind of wrap things up this week so next week is review and we’re not getting into a whole lot of new stuff next week for the last preseason game. That’s where we’re at.
Q: Is it a warped schedule this week?
BB: Maybe a little bit. I don’t think we need more than two days for a game like this. I think two days is enough to get ready.
Q: How has Tom Brady’s camp been?
BB: I think Tom’s worked hard, like he usually does. He’s doing alright.
Q: Do you sense that he’s had an effect on the guys around him?
BB: He always works well with his teammates.
Q: Is it good to have a guy like that when you have a lot of new players trying to learn your system?
BB: He’s always worked well with his teammates. I don’t think that’s ever been an issue since he’s been here.
Q: Are you game planning more for this week than you would at any other point in the preseason?
BB: No, not really. I think the things that we want to work on, we’re going to work on. We certainly have to have an awareness of what they do and how to give our guys a chance so that we’re not running things that are going to be 100 percent failure. We don’t want that. But at the same time, we’re not trying to out-scheme anything or try to create some kind of an advantage that is, I’d say, a little bit artificial. We still want to do the fundamental things that we do and evaluate our players doing them. I’d say that’s pretty much what they’re doing too. I don’t know what they’re going to do, but that’s what it looks like they’re doing.
Q: How has Will Svitek handled moving back and forth between guard and tackle?
BB: Good. He hasn’t had a whole lot of experience at guard prior to this year, this camp, but he’s handled it very well. Smart guy, adjusts quickly, has a lot of experience playing tackle and understands the whole offensive line system and communication, how everything works together. He’s done a good job. It wasn’t something we were planning on doing but it worked out that way. He’s certainly increased his value to the team by showing that he can play two positions when we were kind of just looking at it as tackle, both left and right tackle, but he’s also shown that he can play guard. He’s helped himself on that. It’s helped our team.
Q: What have you seen from Tom Brady’s conditioning and how it may help him withstand injuries?
BB: Tom works hard. Tom is one of our offseason award winners. He had a good offseason and worked hard. His conditioning levels are always good.
Q: In particular, when he withstands a hit like he took in practice the other day or in a preseason game, how do you think his conditioning helps in that regard?
BB: I think he’s in good condition. He’s been in good condition. He’s one of our offseason award winners.
Q: What is your assessment of Jamie Collins after last week’s game?
BB: I thought he showed up. He’s learning. He’s doing some different things for us. Defensively he’s got some different responsibilities playing at the end of the line, playing off the line, playing in sub situations, playing a lot in the kicking game. He’s learning every day and I think he’s definitely making progress.
Q: Have you been able to put him in enough different situations and positions this preseason?
BB: Yeah. He’s played quite a bit.
Q: Have you seen examples of complete team defense that make you optimistic going into the regular season?
BB: I think we’ve seen good things in all phases of our game. We’ve also seen things that need to be better or weren’t real good, weren’t the way we want them. We’ll keep working to try to get things as good as we can all the way across the board in every area. I think we’ve seen definitely positive results across the board. We need to make that consistent and we need to get it to as high a level as we can.
Q: How hard has Dane Fletcher worked to get back on the field?
BB: Dane has worked really hard. He worked hard last season during the fall, after the surgery. While everybody else was playing, he was working hard in the weight room and rehabbing. He had a full spring. Fortunately for this year, the injury occurred early last year so he had almost a full calendar year to rehab it. Btu he worked very hard and diligently on that. I think he’s moving well. I think his play has improved. I think he has a lot of confidence in his physical ability and he hasn’t missed anything. He’s been out there all spring, all training camp. He’s had a big role for us in the kicking game. He’s played well definitely so I think he’s had a real good comeback from that injury.
Q: Was there less pre-snap movement and full house backfields against Tampa than against the Eagles?
BB: Again, I think for us, the way I look at it, is against the Eagles we really had four days against them, well three and then a situation kind of day. We had three days against Tampa and then kind of that situation day the day before the game. The combination of all three of those days, we got a lot of snaps on Tuesday and Wednesday in addition to the snaps on Friday that I think were important snaps for our team. Some of the things we did more in practice and less in the game. Other things, we did more in the game and less of in practice. I think it’s the entire body of competition against those teams that I look at, rather than what we did on Tuesday or what we did on Wednesday or even what we did on Friday. I think they’re all significant but I think it’s kind of a combination of all those things. We ran a lot of things in practice that we ran less of in the game and vice versa.
Q: Do you anticipate filling your six open spots?
BB: If we find a player we want to fill them with, we could. We don’t have like six guys flying in here tonight to be out there tomorrow. But if something comes up that we feel like there’s a player we want to take a look at or we feel like can help us, we can just put them on the roster without having to do anything. If not, then we’re prepared to go with what we’ve got. A week from now we’ll be at 75. I’m just saying, if we bring somebody in in the next day or two, they’re only going to be here for a couple days. I’m not saying it isn’t worth it, I’m just saying that’s what it would be. We’ll do what we think is best. We could fill it but not necessarily.
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