MADISON, Wis., July 11 (UPI) -- Wisconsin wide receiver Lee Evans, who underwent successful knee surgery on May 27, is likely to be on the sidelines early in the upcoming season.
Evans, one of the nation's premier wideouts, sustained ligament damage in his left knee while making a catch in the spring football game on April 20. He tore the ACL in the knee, and his availability at the outset of the season has been in question since the surgery.
"I don't want to miss none of the games in the Big Ten, but if I can come back a little earlier I will," Evans said Wednesday. "I won't rush it. I feel I can be ready by then, but if I'm not then I'll wait."
That means he will miss at least the Badgers' first five games -- against Fresno State, UNLV, West Virginia, Northern Illinois and Arizona. Wisconsin plays Penn State at home Sat., Oct. 5, in its Big Ten opener.
He said he's gotten calls from NFL well-wishers like Jerry Rice and Jamal Anderson, and that patience will be his biggest hurdle.
"A lot of people try to come back early and some things don't work out for them," Evans said. "That's probably one of the biggest pieces of advice that they've given to me, which is be patient. You know your body more than anyone else. Your body will tell you when you're ready to come back."
Rehabilitation from ACL surgery takes four to six months. If he's ready for the Penn State contest, it will have been 4 1/2 months since the injury.
He said his recovery period has had its ups and downs and is a bit tedious, but is on schedule.
"Right now I'm able to jog. Jog and run through some routes, do some planting and cutting and catching balls," he said. "I do a lot of work in the pool, just getting some of the circulation and some of the muscle control back. A lot of balance work. I started leg press, trying to gain some muscle back. Those are pretty much the main things I do. I still work on a lot of flexing on my ACL leg, trying to get it back to perfect, where it needs to be. I can do pretty much anything I really want to do next to sprinting and running at full speed."
The 5-11, 192-pound senior said he feels like he will have an impact when he's ready to play.
"There have been people who have come back from ACL tears in less than four months," he said. "I feel I should be able to the same. I have a very competitive attitude that if somebody can do something, I can do it too, if not better."
Evans set a Big Ten Conference record for receiving yards in a season in 2001 with 75 receptions for 1,545 yards. He also was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver.
Since he played as a true freshman in 1999, Evans does have the option of redshirting next season and returning for his fourth year of eligibility in 2003.