MADISON — Winners of five straight games, Wisconsin could use a break.
A much-needed bye week has given the 23rd-ranked Badgers (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) hope that several injured players will be able to return next week. Coach Paul Chryst said that includes starting tight end Austin Traylor, who returned to practice Wednesday although he was held out of contact drills.
Traylor, one of the team’s top receiving threats, was expected to be sidelined four to eight weeks after he broke an arm against Iowa on Oct. 3.
Running back Corey Clement (sports hernia) and linebacker Chris Orr (leg) were held out of practice on Wednesday.
"You’ve got to make sure whatever you’re trying to get out of that week, do it. There is no way you can keep it in game mode for two weeks," Chryst said of his approach to dealing with a bye week. "A late bye like this, you have different goals and different objectives than if it was an early bye week."
Getting healthy appears to be a top priority.
Chryst said kicker Andrew Endicott (leg) is close to returning, while wide receiver Robert Wheelwright (leg) is out of a cast and doing work in the pool. Tight end Eric Steffes (knee), who did some work on the side on Wednesday, could also return in time for the Badgers final home game of the season against Northwestern on Nov. 21.
Yet Wisconsin has persevered despite the injuries and returned to the AP Top 25 this week. The Badgers remain in the best position to pounce in the West division should unbeaten Iowa collapse down the stretch.
"We know we have to restart it next Monday," Chryst said. "But the focus is making sure we have a productive week this week. Some of us being productive is getting some guys healthier. … We’ve just got to do it and know that we have to restart it and finish strong."