Pats start cuts with TEs Ballard and Fells

In moves that may indicate All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski will not be placed on the physically unable to perform list, the New England Patriots released veteran tight ends Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard on Friday.

Gronkowski has been out the entire preseason after undergoing multiple surgeries on his forearm and back, and there has been no official timetable for his return.

Ballard, 24, was claimed off waivers and awarded to the Patriots from the New York Giants in June of 2012. He was attempting to return from a a knee injury he sustained in Super Bowl XLVI which caused him to miss the entire 2012 campaign.

Fells is a veteran of six NFL seasons and caught four passes for 85 yards in 13 games for the Patriots last season.

New England also released eight other players on Friday: defensive end Marcus Benard, receiver Johnathan Haggerty, linebacker Mike Rivera, offensive lineman Luke Patterson, fullback Ben Bartholomew, defensive linemen Gilbert Pena and Scott Vallone and offensive lineman Matt Stankiewitch.

The Pats roster now stands at 65 players. All NFL teams are required to cut down to 53 players by 6 pm ET on Saturday, August 31.