BOSTON (CBS) — The cuts have begun, and for the Patriots, they’re starting at tight end.

Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells were both released on Friday afternoon, along with eight other players announced by the Patriots.

That leaves rookie Zach Sudfeld, Michael Hoomanawanui, and the still-recovering Rob Gronkowski at tight end. The release of both Ballard and Fells would indicate that the Patriots will likely activate Gronkowski off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, thereby allowing him to return to the field prior to Week 7. That is how long Gronkowski would have to wait if he remains on the PUP list through the weekend.

The other players released by the Patriots were defensive linemen Marcus Benard, Gilbert Pena and Scott Vallone; wide receiver Jonathan Haggerty; linebacker Mike Rivera; offensive linemen Luke Patterson and Matt Stankiewitch; and fullback Ben Bartholomew.

Ballard, 25, was claimed by the Patriots last year after the Giants put him through waivers in order to place him on injured reserve. The move brought criticism that Bill Belichick had broken some sort of “unwritten rule,” but both Belichick and Giants coach Tom Coughlin said there was no problem.

Fells, 29, played with the Patriots last season, catching four passes for 85 yards. He caught two passes for 14 yards in the Patriots’ preseason finale on Thursday night.

The Patriots need to cut their roster down to a league-mandated 53 players by Saturday at 6 p.m.

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