Well, that was awkward yesterday, wasn’t it? The Giants had cut injured TE Jake Ballard, who tore his ACL during the Super Bowl. Their goal was to put him on Injured Reserve after he cleared waivers, then have him for 2013. Yeah… that didn’t happen.
As you know, wily Bill Belichick claimed Ballard, and now he’s a member of the Patriots. He won’t play this year, likely, but he’ll be around for 2013. It’s easy to see why there is interest. The well-schooled Ballard had four catches for 67 yards and a TD against the Pats during the regular season, tearing them up.
But it’s the whole issue of claiming a guy another team wants to put on IR that stands out. Some would say it’s not cool. I would say it’s business.
No, it’s not the first time the Patriots did it. Two years ago, they claimed injured safety Josh Barrett from the Broncos, tweaking Josh McDaniels and company. And they got burned when the Vikings claimed Garrett Mills.
What did we learn yesterday? That all’s fair in love and claiming guys. All’s fair in roster moves, even among people who respect each other immensely like Belichick and Tom Coughlin. Coughlin, by the way, gets it.
Clearly perturbed that Ballard was even on waivers, Coughlin said, “Thats the nature of the business.” Very true.
Putting a guy on waivers isn’t a free way to clear a roster spot. Nothing comes without penalty. Nothing comes without a risk. There is a reason for waivers, and it’s not to force the guy to wait in limbo for a few days. Some teams would have kept Ballard as the 90th guy and then placed him on IR after camp. The Giants chose to free up that spot for another reason. That’s a choice.
So it is for the Patriots in claiming him. Both sides did what they thought was best. And the Patriots ended up with the player… with few hard feelings, I’d bet. I think Belichick summed it up best last September when talking about how teams had claimed players he wanted to place on the practice squad (namely Will Yeatman).
“Anytime you release a player, I think you have a pretty good expectation that he’s not going to be here,” Belichick said on Sept. 5. “If you want him, then you keep him on the roster. Once you’ve put him out there then you can expect to lose him. The practice squad – we’ve lost guys before that haven’t been claimed and then they sign with another practice squad team – or sign with another team and go to their practice squad, and we’ve done that. We’ve signed guys that have been released by other teams. … So, once you release the player, I think you expect them to be released. If you get them back, you get them back, but if you don’t, you don’t. I just don’t think you can release a player and expect to keep the player. If you do that’s pretty – it’s nice if it happens if that’s what you want, but there’s got to be a good probability that that isn’t going to happen. It’s certainly not anything you can count on; it’s not anything that we ever count on, I can tell you that. Once they’re on the wire then 31 other teams – if anybody wants him, he’s there’s.”
And it’s fair game to claim him. As the Giants know.