Anything but the ankle

Badgers' star tailback is healthy, and he's already tired of talking about it

CHICAGO—Senior tailback Anthony Davis sat at a table at Big Ten Media Day with a hand-written sign that proclaimed "NO ANKLE QUESTIONS."

The sign appeared toward the end of the two-hour long question-and-answer session with reporters but should probably have been there earlier.

"I should have put "No more ankle questions. I've already received about a million, catrillion," Davis said, adding that he probably should have put the sign up "after the first 500."

He is obviously exaggerating but not by much. Davis is trying to put the infamous ankle injury in the past. He has moved on but not everyone has followed suit.

"It's been getting a lot of attention. That's probably the most asked question," Davis said. "I've probably given the same answer a thousand times today."

His response when asked about the ankle that kept him out of action for most of the season is generally the same.

"It's behind me," he said. "I've been healthy for a long time and I've been working out in the offseason and I had a good offseason, just ready to rock and roll."

Perhaps he did not always slip the phrase "ready to rock and roll" into his answer but the message from him and his coaches is generally the same. He is fine.

"Yeah, he had a sprained ankle," offensive coordinator Brian White said in a recent interview. "It wasn't like he tore his knee up or anything. Ankles come back. They are hard to come back from in a season but, you know, he had a sprained ankle. A severely sprained ankle that affects your performance in that particular year but it's not going to hinder him. It didn't hinder him at all in the spring. He's fine."

Davis spent the season either on the sidelines or fighting through the injury after initially injuring the ankle early in Wisconsin's third game of the season, against UNLV. Davis started eight games, though he played sparingly in four of them, and recorded 714 yards on 116 attempts. In the first two games of the season, he rushed for 414 yards; in his final six games, he only rushed for 300 yards.

"I think it just made him hesitate a little more because he was leery about putting himself in situations, making the cut that he's known for and just, when he's going down, he's just trying to protect himself from getting caught up," senior free safety Jim Leonhard said. "Any time, as a running back, when you're thinking about an ankle—it's the same thing as if you're having fumbling problems and you're thinking about the ball. It's going to slow you down and it's not going to be effective."

"He really never fully recovered throughout the season," Alvarez said, "but is recovered now. He's a special back. We've had a few good ones coming through Wisconsin and he's as fine a back as we've had. Home-run hitter, tough guy, will be a captain. Keeping him healthy will be very important in our success."

Alvarez said he plans to hand the ball to Davis on approximately a third of the snaps in each game and is not worried about the tailback getting fatigued.

"You'd like to put the ball in his hands in a typical game of 75 plays, you'd like to have the ball in his hands somehow at least 25 times," Alvarez said. "You want to keep him fresh. It's never been about being physical. His injury was a just a fluke with a helmet coming in just as he was planting, it hit him. It had nothing to do with being tired, with not being physical enough or anything like that. It was just something that happens in football."

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