Bielema: Ball likely off field two more weeks

MADISON, Wis. — Montee Ball emerged from a training

room tucked inside the bowels of Camp Randall Stadium on Monday afternoon

wearing his customary No. 28 red University of Wisconsin football jersey. But

just as quickly as he appeared, Ball vanished from view into solitude.

On a day in which the Badgers began their first fall practice of the season,

Ball, the team’s marquee player and a Heisman Trophy candidate, went mostly unseen.

The star running back has yet to be cleared to practice as he recovers from a

concussion sustained when five men attacked him last week in an early-morning

incident near campus.

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said Monday after practice that Ball likely won’t

return to the field for full-contact drills for two more weeks. He does

anticipate Ball being ready in time for Wisconsin’s season opener against

Northern Iowa on Sept. 1.

“We’re taking it extremely slow,” Bielema said. “We should have

him there for all the game week preparation, which is where I think I’d have to

be to play him in that opener. It sounds like everything is going to happen

full speed ahead.”

According to the police report, witnesses said five men attacked Ball while he

was walking in the 500 block of University Avenue at 2:15 a.m. CT on Wednesday

morning. Ball, who had been socializing with friends downtown, was

“knocked to the ground and kicked” and taken to a hospital with head

injuries, the report said.

Detectives investigating Ball’s assault believe it may have stemmed from a

fight that occurred late on July 27 and into the morning of July 28. That

altercation involved Wisconsin students, including members of the football

team, according to a police statement.

Police say Ball was present, but Ball has denied any involvement in the fight.

Bielema said he met with Ball after his release from the hospital and believed

Ball’s story.

“I just assured him that he needed to sit here and tell me exactly what

happened,” Bielema said. “If I found out that there was any

indication he was involved in it, he’d be handled just like anybody else.”

Bielema cited his discipline of previous star players as an example that Ball

would be treated no differently. In 2009, Bielema suspended starting safeties

Aubrey Pleasant and Shane Carter for the season for disciplinary reasons.

“I told the team last night, ‘If anybody has an indication of what I will

or will not do, go back on my personal record when I threw our two starting

safeties off the program for some things that I felt very strongly about and

didn’t blink an eye,'” Bielema said. “I don’t have any problem saying

that.”

Though Ball hasn’t spoken publicly since the attack, he twice has taken to his

Twitter account to refute reports by the celebrity gossip and entertainment

news outlet TMZ that alleged Ball was involved in the July 27 fight.

On Aug. 3, Ball tweeted: “With success, will come many haters And

completely fabricated stories!! I will stick to what I’ve been doing since day

1”

Bielema said he didn’t have a problem with Ball defending himself on Twitter.

“You’re dealing with a young man who’s got a lot of things on his plate

that feels very strongly that he didn’t have any involvement,” Bielema

said. “I don’t think anybody should quote TMZ as a news source right now

from what I’ve seen. I do think that Montee feels very strongly he wasn’t

involved in any way, shape or form. He’s never given me an indication to think

otherwise.”

This marks the second off-the-field incident involving Ball since he announced

in January that he would return for his senior season. In May, he was arrested

for trespassing after refusing to leave the porch of an apartment during the

annual Mifflin Street Block Party. It was not an alcohol-related issue, and

Ball was fined $429.

Bielema didn’t specifically answer whether Ball’s troubles were a result of bad

luck or bad judgment.

“My guess is of all the seniors at the University of Wisconsin, there’s

been a few that have been in a bar after two o’clock,” Bielema said.

“Obviously no one draws the attention that Montee Ball draws. That’s part

of what he probably realizes now as much as he tried to realize it before. Now

it’s how much potential hate can be driven toward him in a short amount of time

by so many people. That’s a big part.”

Last season, Ball was a Heisman Trophy finalist when he rushed for 1,923 yards

with 33 touchdowns and tied the FBS single-season record with 39 total

touchdowns scored.

Bielema said he didn’t think Ball had jeopardized his standing with the Heisman

Trophy committee as he prepares for his senior season.

“I think in the end if there was proof or if there was anything that comes

out that he was involved, it absolutely, positively would,” Bielema said.

“I’m fairly confident the young man that I’ve known the last seven years

of my life is a guy that’s been pretty straightforward.”