Police in Madison, Wis., said Thursday they now believe there was a "precipitating event" that led to the early Wednesday attack on Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, according to a report.
Central District Capt. Carl Gloede told the Wisconsin State Journal Thursday that an investigation was underway to uncover the details of the Wednesday attack, from which Ball suffered a concussion that will keep the senior out of the start of the preseason camp.
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Police say they are also investigating whether other football players were involved in an incident before the attack on Ball by five men in Madison, the report said. A witness said one of the assailants said something like, "One down, nine to go," Gloede told the newspaper, suggesting others might have been targeted.
No suspects have been identified, Gloede told the paper, adding that surveillance cameras did not capture the assault or provide any clues to the assailants' identities.
Police said Ball was walking home just behind two friends when he was jumped, according to the report.
In their initial report Wednesday, police said there was no evidence Ball knew his attackers and were treating the incident as "an unprovoked assault."
Responding to an unattributed TMZ.com report that he was involved in a previous fight that provoked the attack, Ball posted this on his Twitter account Thursday: "The report that I was involved in a fight is totally false."
Ball has cooperated with police and said he does not believe anyone would have reason to retaliate against him, Gloede told the paper.
"In terms of any precipitating event," Madison police department spokesman Howard Payne told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "we are still investigating that and any other pieces of information that are out there that might lend some credence to why this may have occurred.
"We're hopeful the interviews we are conducting will (generate) more information as to whether that is a reality or not.
"With cases like this a lot of people speculate. We are trying to steer clear of that unless there is some reason to believe that speculation has some validity."
According to reports, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said during a taping of a show at WISC-TV studios in Madison on Thursday that Ball won't be ready when practice begins Monday. The Badgers open the season at home Sept. 1 against Northern Iowa.
Bielema gave no indication Ball would suffer any long-term problems. He said Ball's absence will spare the Heisman Trophy finalist from a year ago hits and give other backs more repetitions.
Players are scheduled to report Sunday, ahead of Monday's first scheduled practice.
"My concern right now is for Montee's health and well-being," Bielema said Wednesday in a statement. "Montee has been released from the hospital and is under the care and supervision of our sports medicine staff. We will continue to evaluate him as we approach the start of fall camp this weekend. I do expect Montee to make a full recovery."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.