It will be a long road back for Jake Ballard.

The New York Giants tight end, who suffered a torn ACL in the team’s Super Bowl XLVI victory, didn’t just have normal reconstruction surgery. Ballard underwent microfracture surgery and that means a grueling recovery period that could take at least eight to nine months and likely wipe out the entire 2012 season for him.

According to Jeff Roberts of the Bergen Record, Ballard underwent the surgery in February. Roberts raises the question of when – or if – Ballard will return after he enjoyed a breakout season for the club.

He was injured in the fourth quarter of the victory over the New England Patriots and it happened when he was jammed by linebacker Brandon Spikes. Ballard tested his knee on the sideline after the painful play and that is when he believes he damaged the cartilage on his knee.

I definitely felt it rip and heard it pop," he decribed the play with Spikes. "I felt like I ripped everything and broke everything. But it was the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. I wasn’t not going to try to get back out there."

On the sideline, it felt worse as his knee buckled while he tested it.

“My knee just collapsed," Ballard said Monday night in a phone interview, a week before the Giants begin OTAs. "I definitely tore (my ACL) on the field. I’d say (the cartilage damage) probably happened on the sideline from trying to run with no ACL.
 

"But I don’t regret trying to get back in the game. It’s the biggest game in any football player’s career."

Fullback Travis Beckum also suffered a torn ACL in the game but he’s progressing nicely to this point. Ballard has just started to walk without crutches and it will be another month or two before he can begin to run. It’s an arduous journey back. He’s re-signed with the Giants as an exclusive rights free agent. Now, he has to focus on the recovery.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune