And I certainly don’t feel bad that the Patriots claimed their former star tight end Jake Ballard. This weekend, Gary Myers of the New York Daily News wrote that, “the NFL is a cutthroat business, and nobody’s blood runs colder than (Bill) Belichick’s. He didn’t owe the Giants anything and didn’t extend them professional courtesy by letting Ballard pass through.”
What Ballard was “passing through” was waivers. You know, after the Giants released him of their own accord because he was still nursing an injury sustained in the Super Bowl. As the big show’s runner ups last year, the Pats would have been 31st in line to claim Ballard. So 30 other teams chose not to take him, but Belichick decided he was a good addition to the Patriots and did. Plain and simple.
Sure, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is probably pretty upset. Remember after Ballard was injured in the Super Bowl and tried to run on the sidelines to test his knee? He made that spectacularly painful looking fall that was expertly captured by CBS cameras? Who wouldn’t want a competitor like that on their team? Especially when you know the Pats will probably just put Ballard on injured reserve anyway for this season.
But, like it or not, Coughlin rolled the dice and put Ballard on waivers. In doing so, he threw him to the sharks with nothing but a vain hope he wouldn’t end up as chum. “Professional courtesy” is a fallacy in sports. Every team’s purpose is to be better than everyone else. Ballard was a player who made the Giants better. So, given the chance, Belichick took him away from the Giants. It’s like a chess match; you don’t not take your opponent’s queen if you are intent upon winning.
The issue here is that this whole thing is still an issue. The Pats claimed Ballard a week ago and the media had a field day with it. However, those who have chided Belichick for being cold hearted don’t understand how he does business. There is nothing Belichick does that is not in the best interest of his football team. He says it at every press conference, in every interview, in his post-game rhetoric. He wants to do anything that will make the Patriots a better football team today than they were yesterday. If Ballard does that, why did claiming him earn Belichick the distinction of “cold-blooded?” If Coughlin didn’t want to lose his tight end, why did he put him on waivers? It was obviously a strategic move and, as those decisions sometimes do, it backfired.
Enough is enough though. The Giants (and New York media) can quit crying about the big, bad Patriots swooping in and “stealing” the player they chose to release. Sometimes football, like life, just ain’t fair. But, much like the Honey Badger, Belichick doesn’t give a *&%^. As he recently said, there are no unwritten rules in the NFL. You do what you do to be better than you used to be. End of story.