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Evans still waiting to receive medical clearance

10/4/2002

MADISON, Wis. -- Nobody seems to know when -- or if --
Wisconsin wide receiver Lee Evans will return.

Evans, the school's career receiving leader, had hoped to return
from a major knee injury in time for the 19th-ranked Badgers' Big
Ten opener against No. 20 Penn State on Saturday.

But he has yet to receive medical clearance, fueling speculation
that he might miss several more games and perhaps the entire
season.

"Nothing has changed with Lee,'' Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez
said. "I'm not going to make any more announcements on Lee. We'll
announce when Lee is going to play when he takes the field. And any
other speculation is pure speculation.''

So, Evans showing up in full pads will be the first clue for
fans and opponents that he's back. Evans knows even when he does
return, he'll likely struggle to regain his form.

"It's going to be a mental mountain to climb catching my first
pass, taking my first hit,'' he said. "But that's all part of the
process. Sure, I'll be a little hesitant. But hopefully that will
wear off quickly.''

Evans, who set a Big Ten record last season with 1,545 yards
receiving, tore up his left knee during the Badgers' spring game on
April 20 -- the same day as the NFL draft.

Evans had decided against declaring for the pros, hoping to help
the Badgers rebound from a rare losing season while pursuing his
degree.

Instead of sitting by the phone waiting to see which team would
make him a multimillionaire, Evans was running routes at Camp
Randall Stadium when he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament.

He doesn't regret his decision

"It is very ironic. But if you're not confident in the choices
you make, that's when a lot of problems come into hand,'' Evans
said. "I talked to a lot of people, a lot of people had advice.
And you've got to make a decision and take it in stride, whatever
happens.

"I'm very confident in the decision I made. I've got to get on
with life.''

Evans' surgeon removed one-third of the patellar tendon from his
right, healthy knee and grafted it into his left knee.

"That's now my new ACL, so now I've got to rehab on both
legs,'' Evans said, massaging the scars that look like earthworms.
"It individualizes what I have to do -- range of motion for the ACL
leg, strength for the graft leg.''

Evans has been practicing with the team since camp began, but on
Saturdays he's been on the sideline, a spectator and student coach,
especially for freshman wideouts Jonathan Orr and Brandon Williams.

Orr (22 catches, 397 yards and four TDs) and Williams (18
catches, 250 yards) have flourished with earlier-than-expected
playing time, helping the Badgers to a 5-0 record.

Both have posted 100-yard games, the first time in school
history two freshmen have accomplished that feat. Quarterback
Brooks Bollinger has adjusted well to his new receivers.

"I think they have done a very good job with their offense,''
Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "Obviously, Lee Evans would be
another explosive player, but (Orr) has really stepped to the front
and done a good job for them. The quarterback is very comfortable
with him.''

Penn State (3-1, 0-1) is coming off an overtime loss to Iowa.