TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals signed tight end Jake Ballard on November 4, and he appeared in a game for the team six days later.
It was a significant milestone for the former New York Giant and New England Patriot, as he had been recovering from a torn ACL and had been anxious to get back on the field.
In eight games with the Cardinals, Ballard caught seven passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was a step in the right direction,” the tight end said Monday as the Cardinals cleaned out their lockers following a Week 17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. “I’ll just continue to build on that.”
The numbers are modest, at best, but they represent more than just stats for the 26 year old.
“I was happy with everything,” he said. “My knee didn’t cause me any issues. Every week I was getting better and I’ve been lifting, getting stronger, and I’m going to take this offseason to hopefully get back to where I was.”
Where Ballard was, at least two years ago, was a key member of a Super Bowl champion Giants team. He caught 38 passes for 604 yards and four touchdowns that season, as the 6-foot-6, 275-pound former Ohio State Buckeye established himself as a reliable weapon in the passing game and capable blocker when asked to do so.
He had been working his way back when the Cardinals offered to sign him, and could still use a little more time.
“I think I have more room to grow,” he said, noting that it’s more about getting stronger and being the player he used to be than anything else. “Just getting my legs stronger and getting back into running like I used to. I have six months of just training, hit the weight room and hit the field and run a lot. I’m excited for that.”
A restricted free agent, Ballard said he has no real preference on where he plays, as long as he gets to.
“If that’s here, great, if it’s not, we’ll just see what happens,” he said. “But I’ve enjoyed my time here. All I want to do is play. I sat at home for 10 weeks and didn’t do anything, so I’ll do whatever I have to.”