MADISON, Wis. — Now that Wisconsin running back Montee Ball has had time to process his thoughts, he’s not even certain he suffered a concussion during last week’s game against UTEP.
“I was just a little dizzy, stumbling after the hit,” Ball said. “I feel fine right now.”
Wisconsin’s training staff still pulled Ball from that game for precautionary purposes. And although he hasn’t yet been fully cleared this week, Ball said Tuesday that he believes he’ll be on the field against Nebraska on Saturday.
“I’m going to play,” Ball said definitively. “No doubt.”
The decision, of course, isn’t entirely up to him.
Ball said he passed the necessary cognitive tests Sunday and did conditioning work with trainers Tuesday to see how his body reacted to a strenuous workout. He said he anticipated being cleared to play as early as Thursday, although he doesn’t think he’ll participate in any contact drills during the week.
Ball sustained a head injury during the second quarter against UTEP on a 1-yard touchdown run. The training staff took his helmet and placed it in a case near the team bench, but Ball remained on the sideline to cheer on his teammates.
“I passed a few physical exams in the back room,” Ball said. “They were pretty much just like, ‘We have other running backs.’ At the time, the score was 23-6. They were like, ‘There’s no reason to throw you back out there right now because we’ve got a big game coming up next week.’
“I was very frustrated. I hate sitting out, hate sitting on the bench. I always want to get back in and contribute with my team.”
The injury was Ball’s second to his head in less than two months. He sustained a concussion when he was assaulted while walking back to his apartment the morning of Aug. 1 and did not participate in contact drills during all of fall camp.
Ball admitted to feeling rusty during Wisconsin’s season opener against Northern Iowa, and his statistics have not matched the numbers he produced last season when he became a Heisman Trophy finalist as a junior.
Through four games, Ball has carried 93 times for 360 yards with three touchdowns. A year after leading the nation in rushing yards and averaging 137.3 yards per game, he is tied for 40th nationally in that category.
“It seems like I’m a little cursed,” Ball said. “I always look on the bright side of things. I’ve still got eight more weeks left and pretty much plan on taking off from here.”
Ball said he wasn’t concerned that sustaining two head injuries in such a short period of time would hamper his career as a football player. He also was told there is little to be gained by sitting out for an extended period of time.
“What the doctor said is it doesn’t really matter how long you wait,” Ball said. “If you pass all the exams, still having two concussions, you’re possibly prone to having another one. He said basically I’ve got to make sure I stay on top of the symptoms and tell the truth.”
Last season, Ball produced one of his first breakout games against Nebraska in a prime time matchup at Camp Randall Stadium when he rushed for 151 yards and four touchdowns during a 48-17 victory.
Wisconsin will gladly take a similar performance this week — assuming that Ball will be on the field.
“If I’m cleared to play, I’m going to play,” Ball said. “I don’t want to sit out.”