The New England Patriots were dealt another injury blow. ESPN is reporting that running back LeGarrette Blount will miss the remainder of the season due to a left hip injury. According to the team’s official website, the team acted swiftly in their attempt to refortify the position by signing free agent Montee Ball to the practice squad. A former second-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2013, Ball will try to help fill the void left by Blount, who was injured in Sunday night’s win over the Houston Texans.
A 25-year-old Wisconsin product, Montee Ball was the 58th overall selection in the aforementioned draft and played two seasons with the Broncos before being released this past September. He started three games for Denver, amassing 731 yards and five touchdowns on 175 total carries. He added 29 receptions for 207 yards, though the majority of his production came in his rookie year, as he only played in five games in his sophomore campaign. The best work of Ball’s career probably came against the Kansas City Chiefs. In three total games against Denver’s division rival, Ball tallied 202 yards on 33 carries, scoring two touchdowns.
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The Patriots have already secured a playoff berth and have clinched the AFC East as well, their seventh straight division crown. And though he’s only been in the NFL a short period of time, Montee Ball does possess playoff experience. Two years ago, Ball ran the football 28 times for 96 yards and caught five additional passes for 15 yards in the Broncos postseason run to the Super Bowl. In fact, he helped Denver defeat the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, 26-16, before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks 43-8.
Ball joins Trey Williams as the only running backs on the Patriots’ practice squad, with Brandon Bolden and James White as the only active backs on the 53-man roster. Ball and White were not only former teammates at Wisconsin but also roommates, so the familiarity should help speed up the learning curve as Ball tries to acclimate himself to head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ playbook. White, who has four touchdowns for the Patriots this season, is confident in Ball’s ability to help New England reach their ultimate goal.
“He’s a good player and it’s good to have him around. He’s a downhill runner and he’s going to run hard.”
Montee Ball’s addition comes at the expense of losing LeGarrette Blount for the rest of the year. Blount leads the Patriots in rushing with 703 yards on 165 carries and seven total touchdowns. Blount was expected to carry the load heading down the home stretch of the regular season and in the postseason. He rushed for over 140 yards twice in New England’s last two playoff runs, both coming in victories over the Indianapolis Colts. Brandon Bolden is expected to inherit the majority of the carries, with White potentially expanding his role as a receiver out of the backfield and third down duties. Ball’s contributions will be dependent on how quickly he can master the offense.
The Patriots have been bitten hard by the injury bug this year yet still sit as the number one seed in the AFC at 11-2. They lost left tackle Nate Solder to a torn biceps, Julian Edelman broke a foot but could return for the playoffs, and Dion Lewis tore his ACL after a breakout start to the season, which opened the door for White. Rob Gronkowski missed a game due to a knee injury but was able to return in last week’s win over the Texans.
In addition to Ball, the Patriots worked out former Packer and undrafted free agent rookie Alonzo Harris, and there appears to be preliminary mutual interest with former pro-bowler Steven Jackson.
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