Tight ends Ballard, Fells among Patriots’ Friday cuts

Tight end Jake Ballard was informed he wouldn’t make the Patriots on Friday.
Tight end Jake Ballard was informed he wouldn’t make the Patriots on Friday. (Michael Dwyer/Associated Press)

The Patriots formally began to pare down their roster Friday when they cut 10 players, a day ahead of the NFL deadline for trimming rosters to 53.

The moves put them at 65 players for the time being.

Tight ends Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells were the most notable names on the list of cuts.

Also released were defensive linemen Marcus Benard, Gilbert Pena and Scott Vallone, receiver Johnathan Haggerty, linebacker Mike Rivera, offensive linemen Luke Patterson and Matt Stankiewitch, and fullback Ben Bartholomew.

Ballard sat out last season recovering from cartilage-repairing microfracture surgery and ACL reconstruction in his knee — the result of an injury he suffered in Super Bowl XLVI against New England while a member of the Giants. New York waived Ballard in June of 2012, believing he would go unclaimed and they could place him on injured reserve, but the Patriots claimed him.


The 6-foot-6-inch, 270-pound tight end instead spent the 2012 season on the Patriots’ injured reserve list. This spring, he was still laboring when he ran. Ballard appeared in three preseason games but did not have a reception.

Fells, signed to a three-year, $5.25 million contract in 2012, missed three games early last season to injury. Though he played in 13, he had just four receptions, for 85 yards.

After a good spring and strong start to training camp, Fells again missed time in August. He had two catches Thursday night against the Giants. His continued injury problems, combined with his $1.25 million base salary this season, likely contributed to his release.

It will be interesting to see whether Fells is brought back after Week 1, when his salary would not be fully guaranteed.

The moves with Ballard and Fells likely mean the Patriots will not transfer Rob Gronkowski to the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which would mean he couldn’t play or practice for the first six weeks of the regular season, though he may not be fully ready to play against the Bills next Sunday or the Jets in Week 2.


New England currently has just three tight ends on the roster: Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, and rookie Zach Sudfeld.

The release of Benard was something of a surprise. A free agent who spent all of last season out of football because of injury, he was a standout during one-on-ones in training camp, and it looked as if he’d be able to help the pass rush, but Benard didn’t play as well in games as he had in practices.

Rivera played one game for the Dolphins and four for the Patriots last season as a backup linebacker and special teamer.

On Friday morning, Bill Belichick said it was “the first of several big days coming up for our coaching staff and personnel department and how it affects the team,” adding that the injury status of players was one of several factors taken into consideration.

“We . . . get as much information as we can on everything that we have: what guys have done, what their physical status is and so forth, and combine that with obviously some communication with other teams in the league on various things and start making some decisions.

“At the same time, we have to turn the page from the Giants game and start moving on to our Buffalo preparations.”


The deadline to bring the roster down to 53 is Saturday at 6 p.m.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.