Montee Ball got lost in the shuffle of a crowded and talented Denver Broncos backfield throughout training camp, but he's been afforded a chance to kick-start his career with the New England Patriots.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Ball has signed on to join the Patriots' practice squad.
LeGarrette Blount was seen walking with crutches after suffering a hip injury in Week 14 against the Houston Texans, per Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, so Ball will add depth to the running back position behind James White. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe noted Ball and White played together at the University of Wisconsin.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen previously had reported the Chicago Bears were "discussing" signing Ball on Nov. 2. The Green Bay Packers followed up by working out Ball on Dec. 4, per ESPN.com's Field Yates. But now he has found a new home in New England.
Ball made solid inroads as a rookie after the Broncos selected him in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft, but he failed to seize a golden opportunity to start the 2014 campaign.
After rushing for 559 yards and four touchdowns on 120 carries—good for 4.7 yards per carry—he floundered during his second season in the Mile High City. Although Fox entrusted him with feature-back duties, the 5'10" runner mustered 172 yards and a touchdown on 55 carries over the course of five appearances.
Hampered by a groin injury that was facilitated by an emergency appendectomy before the start of the 2014 season, Ball landed on season-ending injured reserve in mid-December. From there, C.J. Anderson usurped primary rushing responsibilities and never looked back.
|Montee Ball's Production by Season|
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Factor in the emergence of Ronnie Hillman and the versatile Juwan Thompson, and Ball realized he was sliding into head coach Gary Kubiak's doghouse.
"I heard I was going to get a lot of snaps, but it just didn't work out like that," he said, according to the Denver Post's Cameron Wolfe.
With one final chance to prove he belonged on Denver's depth chart, Ball carried the rock 16 times for a grand total of 27 yards in the Broncos' preseason finale against the Arizona Cardinals.
However, Kubiak made a point to praise his skills and deflect speculation regarding the back's decline following the clash, per ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold:
Montee is a good football player. The other night, the opportunities weren't really good. I said that after the game. I know he got to carry the ball a lot, but we didn't do a good job up front for him as far as giving him a lot of room to work. He's had a good camp and he's a good football player.
Legwold followed up with some crucial context regarding Ball's preseason play:
To make matters worse, Ball finished the preseason ranked No. 124 among running backs with a minus-5.3 overall grade, according to Pro Football Focus.
With his underwhelming showings in blue and orange now in the past, Ball can focus on trying to carve out a niche in a new locale with the playoffs on the horizon.
Considering his solid vision between the tackles and ability to power through contact, Ball can still make a career for himself as a situational rusher as long as his body cooperates.