As the Patriots took the field yesterday morning for the first day of training camp it started to hit Jake Ballard right as “Crazy Train” blasted out of the speakers surrounding the practice field.

It was cold and it was wet but there was no other place the tight end would have rather been.
It was Ballard’s first time playing in a non-limited role since tearing his ACL in Super Bowl XLVI where he took on the Patriots as a member of the New York Giants. It’s been a year and half since that day and the 25-year-old couldn’t have been happier to play again.

“After warmups it kind of hit me a little bit. The music came on and I was like ‘Man it’s really happening’ ” Ballard said. “It’s great to be here. Sitting on the couch for so long it got old. Definitely enjoyed being back out here.”

When the Patriots first claimed Ballard off waivers from the Giants he was an afterthought for many. After all he was joining a team with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez — two of the best tight ends in the NFL.

But as the Patriots enter training camp Ballard could take on a larger role than expected. The Pats released Hernandez. And yesterday coach Bill Belichick said there is no timetable for the return of Gronkowski who is out after having back surgery.