Troubling news out of Madison, Wisconsin this week, where early Wednesday morning, five men attacked University of Wisconsin running back Montee Ball near campus, leaving him with head injuries serious enough to send him to the hospital.
Ball told police he was walking down University Street around 2:15 a.m. Wednesday after “socializing” with friends when five men jumped him, threw him to the ground and proceeded to kick him in the head and chest.
Two friends of Ball, walking ahead of him at the time of the attack, turned around to see the ambush taking place, and one, along with a man walking across the street from the assault, rushed to assist Ball.
By the time the two arrived, however, the assailants had fled.
No suspects have been identified, with police stating surveillance cameras along the street did not capture the attack.
Though Ball told investigators his cellphone is missing, police are calling the assault “unprovoked,” leaving the reason for Wednesday’s attack, at least for the moment, a mystery.
There is speculation, according to TMZ, that there may have been some sort of “precipitating event” which provoked Ball’s assailants to attack him in the manner they did, with sources within local law enforcement claiming police have received several tips about a brawl at a UW football player’s home roughly one week before Ball was jumped.
According to these sources, Ball was reportedly at the player’s home at the time of the fight and may have participated in beating up someone described only as a “non-football player.”
Phone calls made to the University of Wisconsin’s athletic department by TMZ regarding that possibility have apparently gone unanswered.
Meanwhile, Ball took to Twitter to defend himself Thursday, tweeting, “The report I was involved in a fight is totally false.”
Central District Capt. Carl Gloede has acknowledged police are still trying to find out details about any preceding incident which may have led to the attack on the Wisconsin running back. He tells the Wisconsin State Journal, however, “What [TMZ] is describing is not what we’re looking at.”
UW-Madison student Luke Will, a witness to the assault Wednesday, told the State Journal he heard one of Ball’s attackers say, “something along the lines of ‘nine more football players to go.’” “They said that two or three times and they just kept running,” Will continued. “[That] line is what really stuck out to me.”
Whether or not a preceding incident was the cause of Wednesday’s attack or not, one thing remains certain at this point: According to head coach of the Badgers football program, Bret Bielema, Ball “got beat up pretty bad” and will not be available to join his teammates next Monday for the open of fall camp.
Fortunately, Bielema suggested he does not believe Ball, last year’s Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,923 yards and an NCAA-record 33 touchdowns on 307 carries, will suffer any long-term effects from the attack.
“I do expect Montee to make a full recovery,” Bielema stated.
Trying to put a positive spin on the situation, USA Today reports Bielema told WISC-TV this week that Ball’s not being able to participate in the opening of fall practice would enable other backs to get experience carrying the ball and, subsequently, limit Ball’s exposure to practice hits – something Wisconsin’s coach intended to do anyway.
As of now, there is no date set for Ball’s return to the football field, though, with Bielema commenting, “My concern right now is for Montee’s health and well-being. Montee has been released from the hospital and is under the care and supervision of our sports medicine staff. We will continue to evaluate him as we approach the start of fall camp this weekend.”