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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Lee Evans shelved for season

After a season of uncertainty, the verdict has finally arrived: Lee Evans will not play this season.

Head coach Barry Alvarez announced Monday that the all-American wide receiver will not play this season. Evans’ decision on his future at Wisconsin is uncertain.

“Lee this past week, in consultations with his doctors on Friday, decided it was in his best interest not to play this season,” Alvarez said.


Alvarez said team physician Dr. Ben K. Graf and another doctor both recommended Evans rest his knee and sit out the remainder of the season.

“Doctors told me that they felt [Evans’ knee] needed rest and continued rehab, but more than anything else, rest,” Alvarez said. “He needed rest right now and that they would make a decision at a further date [about] what he will do.”

Evans tore his anterior cruciate ligament during the Badgers’ spring game April 20. ACL injuries typically take about one year of rehabilitation. However, Alvarez said Evans nearly returned in the Big Ten opener against Penn State.

“Frankly, I thought we were very close a month ago, that he was close to playing, because I saw him in practice, and I saw what he did in practice,” Alvarez said. “I thought we all just prepared that he wouldn’t play, and if he did, it would be a bonus because he knew what we were doing and had executed.”

Evans’ next decision may be whether he will declare for the NFL draft or return to Wisconsin for his final remaining year of NCAA eligibility. Draft experts projected Evans to be the third or fourth receiver taken had he not decided to return to school. Evans returned so he could help the Badgers rebound from a losing season and to finish his degree in consumer science.

Now, since his devastating knee injury has prevented him from playing this year, Evans draft value is wavering.

“He has plenty of time to make decisions on what his future plans will be, and when he makes that decision, we’ll make him available,” Alvarez said.

However, Alvarez said he does not know which way Evans is leaning.

“I’m not going to push him,” Alvarez said. “I will gather any information that he would want, but Lee and his folks will sit back and take a look at things. There is no hurry right now. The important thing is to get his knee where he feels very comfortable with it and it responds the way he wants. He has a lot of time to think about it.”

Freshman wideout Jonathan Orr said the team will be content with whatever decision Evans makes.

“All of us were very supportive of him and our heart does go out to him,” Orr said.

Evans broke the Big Ten single-season receiving record in 2001 with 1,545 yards on 75 catches to place himself as a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which is awarded to the nation’s top receiver.

Evans strenuously rehabilitated from his May 22 surgery up to Monday’s announcement. Alvarez said the decision is disappointing but will serve Evans better in the long run.

“Lee has been outstanding throughout this whole process,” Alvarez said. “When he talked to me earlier in the week, [he] said he was ready to play. I think he was probably disappointed, yet I think he understood it is in his best interest to just wait a little longer, to let it heal up a little longer.”

Evans required clearance from team physicians in order to get back out on the field, where he has already become the Badgers’ career leading receiver with 2,255 yards.

“Players a lot of the time say they are ready, but the doctors have their measurements of strength and swelling and their reaction to workouts and that type of thing. Eventually they have to give him a release before they play,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said the three consecutive losses, which most likely dropped UW out of the Big Ten race, did not weigh into the decision to shut down Evans.

“It had nothing to do with it. It wasn’t [Evans’] decision, it wasn’t my decision, it was the doctor’s decision,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said he admired Evans’ display of leadership to the young receiving corps while he rehabilitated.

“He’s done a tremendous job in helping develop those young receivers and being there all of the time for them, in the game and during practice,” Alvarez said. “He will continue to work with them. He’s really an important part of our football team as a leader as well as helping those guys to come along. He has been awesome.”

Orr, who leads the team in receiving with 596 yards, said Evans has helped him and the other receivers develop immensely in every aspect of the game. “He has helped me tremendously, from reading defenses to little ins and outs of the position,” Orr said. “On and off the field, at practice, during the games, in the off-season, in the weight room. Almost every aspect of my game and my position he has helped me with.”

Orr said that he had remained optimistic that Evans would eventually return to action, but now with Evans out, all the receivers must elevate their games.

“I was really hoping that he would be able to come back this year,” Orr said. “I was really looking forward to playing with him and being on the field at the same time with him. It’s just another challenge that we have to step up to.”

Alvarez also said he preferred to see Evans, who was considered a legitimate Heisman candidate before the injury, tearing up the opposition.

“You always go home every night and hope that he will play and be himself, but you never really knew for sure,” Alvarez said.

However, as the reality that Evans may be unable to return set in, Alvarez contended the team prepared as though he would not come back, meaning the Badgers’ practice routine won’t be changed by the doctors’ decision.

“I felt all along we would prepare without Lee,” Alvarez said. “If he would have come back, it would have been a bonus. We’ll just continue to prepare and play as we have.”

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