Above: Jake Ballard scores against Tracy White of the New...

Above: Jake Ballard scores against Tracy White of the New England Patriots in the second half. (Nov. 6, 2011)
Credit: Getty Images

Everyone expected Jake Ballard to be back, so when he walked into the team's field house shortly after 4 p.m. it was assumed he'd cleared waivers and was returning to the team as the newest member of the PUP/reserve list.

Turned out he was just there to say goodbye.

The Patriots disrupted the Giants' plans by claiming the injured tight end Tuesday, even though it's unlikely Ballard will be able to play until the 2013 season. The Giants waived him on Monday after he failed a physical and assumed he would be back with them a day later to continue his rehab. The reward of that move would be that Ballard would not count against the Giants' 90-man roster. The risk was that he'd be claimed.

Of course the Patriots took their own risk. Ballard will make $540,000 from them in 2012, the final year of his contract. He'll be an exclusive-rights free agent before 2013, though, so if his rehab goes well the Patriots can sign him to a longer deal at a minimum cost.

Ballard had a breakout season for the Giants in 2011, but was slowed late in the season by a sprained MCL. The highlight of his season was a Week 9 game against the Patriots in Foxboro where he caught a key third-down pass down the seam and later caught the game-winning touchdown. In Super Bowl XLVI -- also against the Patriots -- he tore his ACL.

Ballard required not only ACL reconstruction but microfracture surgery to repair his knee.

Ballard may never return to the form he exhibited in 2011 when he caught 38 passes for 604 yards and was largely responsible for the Giants moving past the loss of Kevin Boss as a free agent. The Giants already have brought in several players to contend as replacements for Ballard this offseason, including free agent Martellus Bennett and fourth-round pick Adrien Robinson.

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