Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ballard Faces Long Road Back

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ballard Faces Long Road Back

Article excerpt

He knew something wasn't right, before his knee buckled, before he collapsed on the sideline cradling his left leg against the pain that contorted his face.

The Giants medical staff had examined Jake Ballard and thought he had torn his meniscus, not his ACL, when he went down in the fourth quarter of the Giants' Super Bowl XLVI victory. But that was reason enough to try to go back out there -- even if he was experiencing the worst pain of his life.

"I definitely felt it rip and heard it pop," said the tight end, describing his knee after he had been jammed by Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes. "I felt like I ripped everything and broke everything.

"But it was the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. I wasn't not going to try to get back out there."

So the trainers watched and NBC cameras filmed as Ballard tested his knee on the side. He doesn't know exactly what happened, but he thinks he already had torn his ACL, then damaged cartilage when his knee buckled while testing it.

Ballard, 24, underwent microfracture surgery to repair the cartilage as well as surgery to repair his torn ACL in February, casting doubt on when - or if - he will return for the 2012 season.

"My knee just collapsed," Ballard said Monday night in a phone interview, a week before the Giants begin OTAs. "I definitely tore [my ACL] on the field. I'd say [the cartilage damage] probably happened on the sideline from trying to run with no ACL.

"But I don't regret trying to get back in the game. It's the biggest game in any football player's career."

The injury is just the latest obstacle to overcome for the 6- foot-6, 275-pound Ohio State product, who broke out as a starter in his second season, rising from an undrafted "blocking tight end" who had been twice-waived as a rookie and played just one game.

He likely faces eight or nine months of rehabilitation for his rebuilt ACL. The microfracture surgery could add another six weeks because he has been unable to put weight on the leg, according to Dr. …

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