Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 8/30/13
2 p.m. ET: The next two days will be tough ones for NFL players. On Saturday at 4 p.m., NFL teams will have to cut their rosters from 75 players down to 53. Some teams, like the hometown New England Patriots, have got a head start on the cuts, though. The Patriots have already released tight ends Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells, according to multiple reports, and defensive lineman Marcus Benard, according to Pro Football Talk. Ballard and Benard come as a bit of a surprise. Ballard was expected to be a big part of the Patriots’ offense with Rob Gronkowski still recovering from back surgery, but it seemed the former Giant was never able to fully recover from knee surgery a year and a half after the procedure. The decision to release Ballard and Fells likely bodes well for Gronkowski. It would be a surprise if Gronkowski began the season on the PUP list at this point. He’ll likely start on the 53-man roster, though, he probably won’t suit up until at least Game 4 against the Falcons. Benard starred in pass-rushing one-on-ones in training camp, but his ability to beat offensive linemen didn’t translate to the preseason games, especially when he was miscast a third-down defensive tackle. It likely helped the Patriots’ decision makers when Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan each stood out in the final preseason game against the Giants. Both players are younger, more versatile and have higher upside than Benard. Jermaine Cunningham also appears safe for now. He’s been hurt the last few weeks of the summer, but the Patriots have always seemed to like versatile former second-round pick. We’ll be updating throughout the next two days with all the latest cuts. Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyedNESN or send it here. Filed under: Doug Kyed, Live Blog, New England Patriots, NFL, Top Stories

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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