After Chris Wells missed his second consecutive practice on Tuesday, the Ohio State tailback walked to a team meeting inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. In doing so, he headed down a hallway sporting a protective boot on his right foot with at least a dozen reporters waiting for any glimpse of the player known as "Beanie."
Nearly half an hour later, meeting concluded, Wells headed back to the team's locker room. This time, his feet were covered by just black socks. Hammering the point home, a smiling Beanie – who by this time realized there were plenty of people watching his every step – held the boot aloft above his head, spinning it in the air with his wrist.
While that simple gesture might mean nothing more than the fact that Wells was playing up for the curious assembled media members, it did go along with the overall sentiment his fellow Buckeyes were espousing all day long: That no one knows exactly what is wrong with Wells, but that he is in good spirits and appears to be recovering well.
Beyond that, the status of one of the nation's preseason Heisman Trophy candidates still remains in doubt as the week slowly inches toward Saturday's home contest against Ohio University.
"You see him around and he's in good spirits; he's working hard rehabbing," senior linebacker Marcus Freeman said. "You ask him how he's doing and he said he's doing fine. At the same time, we're all fans and we all want him to get back as much as anybody else. We just keep trying to encourage him."
That is all, it seems, that each player can do for Beanie. With the attention of greater Columbus – and to an extent, the rest of the country – focused on Wells' injured right foot, the players closest to him have no idea about the severity of the injury.
Senior fullback Brandon Smith said he believes it is an injury to his foot or big toe, but wasn't sure which one.
However, Freeman said the Buckeyes typically get injury updates from the player himself rather than relying on the coaching staff to spread the word. In this case, though, Freeman said he had not specifically asked Wells what the injury was.
"We're a family," Freeman said. "You're not going to lie to one of your family members. You're not going to say, ‘Oh, it hurts a little bit' when it's really broken. If it's broken, it's broken. Beanie would've told us.
"We've all asked him how it feels. He says, ‘It's hurting.' I guess it's his foot or his big toe or I don't know. He's rehabbing, and I see him in the cold tub trying to get healthy. He said he'll be fine."
Senior tight end Rory Nicol said he had specifically not asked Wells about the injury.
"I'm not going to sit there and ask him how he's feeling because that's all anyone wants to ask him," he said. "Beanie's a great friend. He's in the training room. He's getting the treatment he needs, and when he's ready to come back he'll be back."
Exactly when Beanie will return remains uncertain. That uncertainty has led to speculation that Wells will sit out this weekend's game against the Bobcats so he can continue to heal for OSU's prime-time, nationally televised showdown with No. 1 USC on Sept. 13.
Head coach Jim Tressel said he would not make a decision about Beanie's health this week while considering the game against the Trojans looming on the horizon. Senior running back Maurice Wells – one player who figures to see substantially more time this weekend if Beanie is out – said that is the right approach.
"Obviously every game is important," he said. "We still have to beat OU. The SC game is very important for the national title, but in my view the OU game is as well because if we lose that game, you're out of the national title as well."
But even as the uncertainty of the situation looms and both fans and coaches are left wondering what Wells will be able to do and when he might be able to do it, it appears the team's go-to running back is in good spirits.
"I know we were in the (trainer's room) earlier and he was asking, ‘How am I walking? How do I look?' " Smith said. "I think he's feeling good. He's just working hard to get back to 100 percent so he can be back contributing for us."
Even if he is not at 100 percent, Freeman said a Beanie at 50 percent is better than most backs at 100 percent. But count Nicol as one player who envisions seeing No. 28 toting the ball in the OSU backfield against the Trojans.
"I think any great player wants to compete against the best, and I'm sure there's nothing that Chris Wells wants to do more than run out on that field in L.A. and run for 230 yards like he did at Michigan," Nicol said. "That's the type of competitor he is. He wants to be the best against the best. That's how he is."