In unfortunate injury news, Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell clarified that linebacker Maema Njongmeta, who was seen with his arm in a sling on Monday, underwent surgery on his hand, although he isn't expected to miss any regular season time.
Instead, Fickell believes the linebacker will actually return to practice once the Badgers head back to campus from UW-Platteville, but that Njongmeta will start off with a club on his hand, something he played with during times this season after breaking his hand.
“They say he’ll be back to practice when we go back to campus,” Fickell said on Monday, via The Camp’s Zach Heilprin. “Now, we’ll be smart. He’ll have a big club on his hand.”
However, the Badgers are going to be smart with Njongmeta’s recovery, understanding his body of work and the necessity to ensure he’s at 100% prior to the start of the season.
“He’s played a lot of ball. He’s not one of those guys we rush to get back,” Fickell said. “But it’s hard on a guy who wants to be in on every single snap. We’ll hold him back a little bit, but we’ll have an opportunity to get him back here.”
Njongmeta is returning as the Badgers’ top linebacker, where he and redshirt junior Jordan Turner will reprise their roles from a season ago.
However, while the starter is injured, the Badgers have a strong insurance policy in linebacker Jake Chaney, whom defensive coordinator Mike Tressel dubbed as a starting-caliber player back in spring ball.
Last season, Njongmeta had a solid season, accumulating 95 tackles, including 11.5 for loss, while intercepting a pass and getting to the quarterback for 3.5 sacks.
He’ll look to build upon that year with a strong senior season, and should be cleared health-wise to achieve that goal.