Newly acquired running back Montee Ball (39) jogs  during a stretching session before a New England Patriots practice on Wednesday in Foxborough, Mass.
Newly acquired running back Montee Ball (39) jogs during a stretching session before a New England Patriots practice on Wednesday in Foxborough, Mass. (AP)

FOXBOROUGH, MASS. — Montee Ball has been getting ready for his 2015 NFL debut since he was cut by the Denver Broncos in early September.

Now, the running back is in New England, where his debut could come as early as Sunday.

He's been trying to stay busy, but it hasn't been easy despite doing just about everything else.

"Running, lifting, eating well and all that stuff," Ball said Thursday. "Just the normal stuff, nothing too crazy. But staying on top of my phone, which is the phone calls, and going through tryouts and just staying at it. That's a process you have to go through."

With the Patriots down to two running backs, Brandon Bolden and James White, Ball, 25, was added to the practice squad Tuesday. He wasn't on the active roster, but it's hard to imagine the team going into Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans with only two running backs.

"Wherever they want me, wherever they need me," said Ball, who spent the time off at home in Wisconsin. "I'm not in a position anymore to where I can say what I want to do and where I want to be. It's wherever they want to put me. So whenever my number's called I'm going to do what I can."

Ball played two years with the Broncos, gaining 731 yards and scoring five touchdowns on 175 carries. He fumbled four times, losing all of them, and suffered a groin injury that limited him to five games last season. After gaining only 68 yards on 32 preseason carries, he got the ax in the final preseason cuts.


"It was shocking when the Broncos let me go, but I believe everything happens for a reason, and given the opportunities I was given there in Denver, I can only look back on them now and get better from them and move on," he said. "It's time to move on and being a Patriot, you can't complain at all.

"It looked promising for me leading through the beginning of camp and all that stuff. Then they feel like they needed to move on, trusted in their other players. It's part of the game. You can't play the 'woe is me' card."

All you can do, he said, is stay ready.

"It was just tough," he said. "Yesterday was a little tough just getting back in pads. That was funny a couple of times. But it's fun, man. If you love the game, you'll become acclimated to it really quickly."

By joining the Patriots, Ball is back together with his former Wisconsin teammate White. They roomed together for Ball's senior and White's junior years. Ball said White was helping him learn the complicated Patriots playbook.

"Extremely helpful," he said. "We were roommates in college. We go way back. He knows everything about me. I know everything about him. So it's a lot more comforting to know he's over there."

White believes Ball offers plenty for an offense that has lost Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount to injured reserve.

"He's a good football player. He's a physical runner," White said. "He's a good person and he gives it all he has. We have a good relationship. I think all the running backs who went through Wisconsin keep in touch. We talk all the time.

NOTES: While Ball joined the team Wednesday, the Patriots on Thursday announced the signings of wide receiver Leonard Hankerson (released by Atlanta Dec. 15) and offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle (released by Detroit on the same day) in the latest moves to stock the depleted roster. Asked about going from out of the playoffs to contention, Waddle, a year removed from ACL surgery, said, "That's awesome ... one of the best parts about that, man. Detroit, we were pretty much out of the playoff run, and to come here and know we've got some good ball still left to play, that's definitely exciting." . Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who returned last Sunday after missing one game with a knee injury, is back at full practice, saying, "It feels good to be back to a normal routine."