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Giants’ gamble on Ballard highlights risks of waiving injured players

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The Giants shocked the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and, to a lesser extent, Super Bowl XLVI. The Patriots got a partial measure of revenge on Tuesday.

As MDS pointed out earlier in the day, the Pats claimed Giants tight end Jake Ballard on waivers, preventing the Giants from slipping him through to the reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list and sliding him off the 90-man roster.

And that’s precisely what the Giants wanted to do -- remove Ballard from the 90-man roster prematurely, stashing him on the reserve/PUP list and opening the spot that went to defensive tackle Rocky Bernard.

The Patriots, 31st on the waiver priority list and thus the only team to block the move, now will place Ballard on the 90-man roster. The Patriots may waive him with the “failed physical” designation, exposing him to waivers and likely setting the stage for the Giants (or someone else) to claim his contract. Otherwise, the Pats will have to carry Ballard, who won’t play in 2012 after tearing an ACL in the Super Bowl, on the 90-man roster until the first wave of cuts in late August.

Even though the NFL has established this procedure to prevent teams from stashing young players who may not be injured, there’s a chance that old-guard owners like John Mara expect certain courtesies to be extended in situations like this. Thus, there’s a chance that Mara and the Giants aren’t very happy right now with the Patriots.

There’s also a chance that Pats coach Bill Belichick claimed Ballard precisely for that very reason. Though the Patriots displayed curious interest in veteran tight ends like Dallas Clark and Bo Scaife (they ultimately signed Scaife), they have no obvious need for a young tight end, given the presence of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, both of whom entered the league in 2010 with Ballard.

Whether Ballard is insurance against something unforeseen happening to Gronk or Hernandez or whether Ballard will be dangled for a draft pick once healthy, Ballard is no longer a Giant -- and the Giants can thank Bill Belichick for that.

And what the Giants likely muttering right now may sound a little like, “Thank you.”