By TOM LEA
LINCOLN – When Montee Ball lines up and runs his first play from scrimmage Saturday night inside Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium he will do so on the heels of his second concussion in the span of 59 days.
Remember, Ball missed the majority of the first two weeks of fall camp while recovering from an assault in the early morning hours of Aug. 1, one that left him with a jaw contusion and concussion.
For a guy that truly enjoys playing the game, at what point does safety and precaution overcome the urge to play?
“I always have to think about that,” Ball said earlier this week. “Right now I’ve got to hope and pray it doesn’t happen again. I really don’t think I was concussed. I was a little dizzy and stunned after the hit.
“I feel fine.”
Ball wore the green (no-contact) jersey during Wednesday’s practice, but according to head coach Bret Bielema, urged the coaching staff to let him practice without any restrictions during Thursday’s practice. All of this just days after he missed the majority of Saturday’s game against UTEP with concussion-like symptoms, which forced the training staff to sit him out the remainder of the game.
“I was very frustrated,” Ball said. “Because I hate sitting out and I hate sitting on the bench. I always want to get out and contribute with my team.”
One of the issues plaguing Ball as he prepares for Saturday’s primetime tilt with the Huskers is the fact he could have an urge to change the way he plays. He’s always been a physical, downhill runner, but now he is grappling with the idea of becoming a tailback more conscious of his prior head injuries.
It’s not an easy give and take in his mind.
“I’ve talked to coach (Thomas) Hammock about that,” Ball said. “I’ve got to keep playing the same and run as hard as I’ve been running.”
Hammock, UW’s running backs coach said he doesn’t believe its human nature to protect a former injured part of the body, noting that any football player knows of the inherent risks associated with the sport.
“We all have been there and done that,” he said. “If you play hesitant that’s when bad things happen. You have to play the way you play. That’s the sport. It’s a violent sport. We all understand that. Not to be insensitive, but anybody that plays the game knows injuries can happen and different things can happen.
“You accept that and move forward.”
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