FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots released veteran tight ends Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells in the first batch of final cuts.
Now comes the really hard part.
The Patriots released 10 players on Friday and must reduce their roster by 12 more to get down to the NFL regular-season limit of 53 by Saturday.
Tim Tebow could be in jeopardy despite a decent performance in the Patriots’ 28-20 win over the New York Giants in the exhibition finale Thursday. The third-string quarterback completed 6 of 11 passes for 91 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also was sacked four times but got poor protection on some of them.
“It’s not just one game (that matters),” coach Bill Belichick said Friday about the player evaluation process, “although every game is important. But the body of work, the camp, the rate of improvement, the ability to do the things that players are going to be asked to do at their respective positions (also matters).”
Belichick spoke before the cuts were announced and gave no indication of which players he might let go.
The cuts of Ballard and Fells indicate that Rob Gronkowski could be ready to play sooner than expected after missing all four exhibition games following back surgery. He’s one of three tight ends still on the roster.
Tebow is one of three quarterbacks, playing behind Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett.
Asked after Thursday’s game if he felt that performance improved his chances of making the team, Tebow said, “I’m not sure. I don’t make those decisions.”
That decision will depend on whether Belichick feels it would help the Patriots more to have greater depth at another position than by carrying a third quarterback, something he’s done just once in the past four seasons.
“I don’t think it’s good planning or good insurance for your team to go light at a position and then have no idea where your depth at that position is going to be,” he said. “It may be on the roster. It may not be on the roster. But, at least, you want to have some idea where you’re headed if you need it.”