Daniels closer to full strength

Senior tight end nearly 100 percent after spraining his ankle four weeks ago

The Owen Daniels that stepped onto the Metrodome turf last week was not quite himself. The University of Wisconsin senior tight end was still recovering from a high ankle sprain he originally suffered four weeks ago. Daniels started the game against host Minnesota, but was limited. He caught one pass for 12 yards.

"Still a little sore," Daniels said this week, in reference to his performance versus the Gophers. "I had enough confidence to go out there and run around and play as fast as I could."

Daniels estimated he played between 25 and 30 snaps against the Gophers. He still most likely will not be at full strength this week, when the Badgers host Purdue for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff at Camp Randall Stadium. But Daniels is making progress.

"We're getting there," he said. "It's one of those things that rest would be the best thing for it. 'Cause I'm out there practicing and then to go out and play a game, it's hard to not take a step back."

A bye week would do Daniels some good, but UW does not have one until the Big Ten season is complete. "So we are just going to keep on moving and get healthy," Daniels said.

With the Badgers in the thick of the Big Ten title chase, Daniels wants to be on the field.

"I hate missing games," he said. "It killed me those two weeks that I missed sitting out."

Technically, Daniels has only missed one game. But he only played one snap three weeks ago versus Indiana before re-injuring his ankle.

Daniels originally sprained the ankle Sept. 24, during UW's 23-20 win over Michigan. He suffered the injury in the third quarter of that game, while gaining 11 yards on a screen pass that helped set up Taylor Mehlhaff's second field goal.

"Somebody got me up high and somebody else got me down low," Daniels said.

Daniels remained in that game, however, and picked up 11 yards on a fourth-quarter screen pass to convert a third-and-11 and set up Mehlhaff's third field goal, which closed UM's lead to 13-9.

One week later, Daniels was on the field against Indiana. In hindsight, he said, it probably was not a good decision. On UW's first play from scrimmage, another player rolled up on Daniels' leg, re-spraining the ankle. He missed the rest of the IU game and all of the Northwestern game the following week.

"Didn't really hurt it too much more but I had to get back into rehab," Daniels said. "Contemplated going back out there against Northwestern but the trainers (held) me out. They wanted to make sure I was really healthy so I couldn't re-injure it. It's the type of injury that's easy to re-injure, easy to tweak. So I wanted to get out there, rehab until I was well enough to be confident to go out there and run around."

How serious was the injury?

"I'd say mine would be a mild high ankle sprain," Daniels said. "You don't want a high ankle sprain at all. I actually had the same thing in camp last year. I ended being able to go out there for the first game. I was healthy enough for that. It's just kind of a pain in the butt."

With Daniels either limited or out of the lineup entirely the past three weeks, UW has granted more playing time to seniors Jason Pociask, already a regular contributor, and Joel Nellis.

"Jason's been doing a great job for us all year. He's solid," Daniels said. "(For) Joel to come in and play, it's great to see him out there. He's one of my roommates. He did a good job. I didn't see him messing up at all. He was being physical out there. He's going to go 100 percent no matter. He's going to throw his body around. It's good to see him out there and doing well."

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