well to be fair, gronk had a back issue in college, and had already had the forearm issue before signing ballard as well as the ankle that plagued him in the sb and leading up to it.
NE could have very well believed hernandez to be a nut job who could threaten some playing time altho i doubt anything this serious (murder charge).
I dont think they'd just randomly sign Ballard. So maybe there is some truth to Ballard being an insurance policy for the two TE's starting for them already. Keep in mind, NE also had signed a bunch of TE's last yr even as well (Winslow, Alge Crumpler, Ben Watson altho not sure about him, Ballard)...so I think it is safe to say that at the least there was some concern about the longivity of one of the TE's at least...
am I way off here?