Montee Ball makes public appearance
MADISON, Wis. -- Montee Ball made his first public appearance since the Wisconsin running back was assaulted Aug. 1 near campus, speaking Sunday at Camp Randall Stadium during the Badgers' media day.
Ball made it clear that he didn't have anything to do with a fight before he was assaulted.
"I had nothing to do with it at all but with the police investigation still going on there's not much I can say," Ball said. "But I can 100 percent tell you that I had nothing to do with that first fight, honestly."
Practices had been closed all week to the media.
Ball, who sustained a concussion when he was assaulted, didn't dodge any questions, including those concerning his Heisman Trophy candidacy and his physical condition heading into the season.
The 21-year-old Ball said he made a last-minute decision to go out with some friends before the start of training camp.
"We weren't getting rowdy or anything. I was just heading right back to my place a block away and I was attacked. That's all I remember," Ball said. "I'm very blessed because it obviously could have been a lot worse."
That followed "another unfortunate incident" according to Ball when he attended the Mifflin Street block party in early May and was fined for trespassing.
Ball admitted that he is aware of an attempt draw conclusions about him from the incidents.
"It really shows me how much I do live my life in a fish bowl and how big a microscope that is on top of me. Everybody is watching to see what I do as soon as I step out of my apartment," he said.
"But people who know me know who I am and what type of kid I am. It's a learning experience. You live and you learn and I'm going to thank the Lord and count my blessings."
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said Ball recently addressed the team to clear the air.
"You respect a person to get up and say what he was going to do from this day forward and apologize if he had been a distraction. He did vow to provide great leadership," Bielema said
Ball first addressed the issue in a meeting with the team's running backs.
"I apologized for the situation and what they've had to deal with. I also told them, 'I'm all in to win with you guys.' I just felt it was the time to say that just so everyone knows, `I'm all in."
Running back James White said Ball made an impression on his teammates.
"He let us know that he was a responsible kid and was ready to get back on the field and help us have a successful season," White said.
In a team meeting on Friday night following the first practice in full pads, Ball also addressed the team during what Bielema likes to call an "open mic forum" where players may get up and address whatever issues are on their minds.
"It was big. Being the type of talented player that he is, he's an even better person," quarterback Curt Phillips said about Ball's actions. "We know who he is and what he stands for. We expect him to put up great numbers like he did last year."
Ball said something needed to be said on his part to let his teammates know what he had been going through.
"I apologized for the distraction. Obviously, it's another unfortunate situation for me, but I just want to make sure that you know that I don't want to create a distraction for this team."
Ball will be limited to non-contact drills in practice for at least the next week but he is eager to get back to work.
"Sitting out from practice is different for me. But I'm not worried about it," he said. "Once I start up, I'm going to be 100 percent, full throttle."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press