Cardinals tight end Jake Ballard picks 'quality of life' over football

Ballard was one of four tight ends expected to make the roster this season.

Jake Ballard was listed as a co-starter at tight end with John Carlson on the Cardinals' preliminary depth chart.

Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals' tight end room got a little less crowded when veteran Jake Ballard announced his retirement Wednesday.

"Yesterday, I made the difficult decision to retire from the game of football," Ballard said in a statement that appeared first on Pro Football Talk. "I love this game and have put my heart and soul into it for as long as I can remember.  After sustaining a serious knee injury while playing for the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, my body never felt the same.  

"Having a quality of life after football is very important to me, and I have witnessed it taken away from others. I will miss the game tremendously, but I am ready for this next chapter in my life.  

"It was an honor and a privilege to play for the N.Y. Giants, New England Patriots, and most recently the Arizona Cardinals. I met amazing people from all of my teammates, to opponents, to trainers, to coaches, to owners, and everyone in between. I thank you for allowing me to be a part of your fraternity and I wish you all nothing but success."

The Cardinals officially announced the move about an hour after the initial report surfaced, placing Ballard on the reserve/retrired list.

Ballard, 26, played four NFL seasons after signing with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He started 13 regular-season games and three postseason games for the Giants in 2011 but tore an ACL during New York's Super Bowl XLVI win over the New England Patriots.

He appeared in eight games for the Cardinals last season, catching seven passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns. 

Ballard was expected to be one of the four tight ends to make the roster out of camp, along with John Carlson, 2014 draft pick Troy Niklas and Rob Housler. On the team's preliminary depth chart, Ballard was listed as a starter, along with Carlson. His blocking ability made him an an attractive option for coach Bruce Arians. His retirement opens up an opportunity for converted basketball player Darren Fells, whom Arians has praised during camp for his physicality and his hands.

Fells insisted Ballard's retirement won't change his approach in camp. 

"Anything can happen. Someone else can come in and take my spot," he said. "It doesn't change my mindset on anything. I'm still going to go out there and do what I can; try to give my best every time I'm out there."

The Cardinals also have Andre Hardy in camp and it is possible they could sign another tight end once camp cuts begin and players become available. 

The biggest winner in Ballard's retirement may be second-round pick Troy Niklas, who has nearly recovered from a broken hand suffered in offseason workouts. Neither Carlson nor Housler is a great blocker -- a skill prized by Arians -- so Niklas (6-6, 270) could land a much bigger role. 

Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter

Send feedback on our
new story page