An odd and mysterious situation has arisen around Vikings defensive tackle Christian Ballard. On Sunday it was announced that Ballard, a significant backup player for the Vikes in 2012, had left the team to address some kind of “personal issue.” Leslie Frazier would give no explanation as to the specific nature of this issue and would offer no time-table for the player’s return. All we know is that Ballard is away from the team and the process of picking a 53-man roster for the season will continue without him.
Ballard’s preseason was already going downhill even before this mysterious personal issue cropped up. The defensive tackle had a nice opening game against Houston but suffered a groin pull in that game and had to be removed from the field. The groin problem was severe enough to keep Ballard out of practice all last week and ultimately he was forced to miss the preseason game in Buffalo as well.
Now Ballard has been placed on the “left-team” list and his roster status is certainly up in the air. Leslie Frazier, for his part, seems disappointed in the situation. “[Ballard] is one of those guys we were counting on to be a part in our rotation,” Frazier said. “He did a very good job for us a season ago. We’re hoping he would help us this year as well. Hopefully things work out for him. He has some personal things he has to take care of.”
It would of course not be fair to speculate on the nature of Ballard’s “personal issue.” We can only assume it’s a very serious matter or Ballard would not have allowed himself to be torn away from the team at this rather perilous stage in the roster-paring process. Ballard looked fairly safe before this, despite the spirited competition for backup defensive line spots, but now it’s anyone’s guess where Ballard fits in the team’s plans.
A rookie like Anthony McCloud, who looked pretty impressive against Buffalo, can only benefit from the sudden gaping hole left by Ballard’s departure. It also helps a guy like Lawrence Jackson who has spent most of camp firmly on the bubble as a backup defensive end. The defensive end side of this issue shouldn’t be ignored. Ballard figured to get snaps at end as well as tackle – he did last year and was somewhat effective – but with Ballard gone who will get those DE snaps? Could be Jackson, could be D’Aundre Reed.
Point being that the defensive line situation, which once looked fairly sorted except for maybe that last backup spot, is suddenly in a major state of flux. Someone will benefit greatly from Ballard’s absence. For Ballard’s sake, I hope he gets whatever it is straightened out quick, cause none of those other guys who want his job are going to feel sorry for him. They are not going to pull back out of friendship.