Pryor, Ballard ineligible for this season

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday that neither of the team's two players on the reserve/physically unable to perform list -- defensive lineman Myron Pryor (shoulder) and tight end Jake Ballard (ACL) -- had begun practicing.

In fact, the three-week window for either to begin practicing closed on Tuesday, meaning that both are ineligible to return this season.

The implication for Pryor in particular is significant. The 2009 sixth-round pick was in the final season of his four-year rookie contract and was set to become an unrestricted free agent next spring. However, since Pryor will now spend his entire final contract season on PUP, his contract will toll, keeping him under the Patriots' control for the 2013 season.

The same is true in Ballard's case, although with only two seasons of accrued experience, he would have been an exclusive-rights free agent, where the Patriots would have controlled his rights. He is now under contract for 2013, like Pryor.

Pryor has struggled to stay healthy since entering the league, playing in only two games last season before landing on injured reserve with a groin injury. At this point, it is unlikely the Patriots are counting on Pryor to play a major role in 2013.

Ballard, who tore his ACL in the New York Giants' win over New England in Super Bowl XLVI, should be ready to play next season and figures to be in the mix at a deep tight end position.

Meanwhile, the Patriots have another two weeks to decide the fate of rookie offensive lineman Markus Zusevics, who remains on the reserve/non-football injury list but began practicing last week. From this perspective, the most likely scenario is that Zusevics, if healthy, is eventually waived and re-signed to the practice squad.