"I will have surgery and begin the rehabilitation process as soon as possible," Thomas said in a statement released Sunday. "I am looking forward to next season and I am anxious for our program to continue where it left off in Orlando. I want to thank all of our fans for their support of me and our team."
Thomas injured the knee while playing on the defensive line midway through the third quarter of UW's 24-10 win over Auburn. Thomas played a handful of snaps on defense, in addition to his offensive line responsibilities, to assist the Badgers' injury-plagued front four.
Thomas, a junior, had considered an early departure to the NFL, but reportedly had already decided to return to Wisconsin for his senior year prior to the Capital One Bowl injury. He was projected as a late first-round pick.
A torn ACL typically requires 6-9 months rehabilitation following surgery. Sunday's press release did not specify when Thomas' surgery would take place. The Badgers open their 2006 season Sept. 2—about eight months from now—against Bowling Green at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
A year ago, cornerback Brett Bell torn his ACL in the team's first offseason workout, but pushed himself to return in time for the first practice of fall training camp in August. Bell succeeded in that goal, practicing less than six months after surgery. But the knee continued to trouble Bell throughout his senior season, and he struggled after a very strong junior campaign.
Unlike Bell a year ago, however, Thomas has not previously redshirted and could conceivably use a redshirt year in 2006. Sunday's press release, though, intimated that Thomas plans to play this fall.
"Joe Thomas is one of the top players in college football and I am confident he will be back stronger and better than ever in 2006," incoming head coach Bret Bielema said. "I know Joe will turn this temporary setback into a positive because that is the type of person he is.
"He will be under the care of our sports medicine and strength and conditioning staffs, which means he will be in very capable hands. I look forward to Joe's return to action. We will be counting not only on his playing ability but his leadership qualities as well."