Badgers' week gets even stranger: Stave says he's not hurt

Badgers' week gets even stranger: Stave says he's not hurt
September 2, 2014, 7:45 pm
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Vinnie Duber

What is going on with the Badgers?

There have been a season's worth of odd communication issues over the last few days, and they just keep coming.

The latest? Backup quarterback Joel Stave, who it was announced Tuesday morning would be shut down and miss time with a shoulder injury, told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he was not hurt at all.

What?

“I’m not hurt. Structurally, everything’s good in my shoulder," Stave said. Audio of the interview was posted on Bucky's 5th Quarter. "I’m throwing the ball after practice and everything like that just fine. Right now my arm is just not working the way I’d like it to, I guess. I don’t know what it is. But structurally I feel good, not really any pain.

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“I’ve thrown how many thousands of balls in my life, I know when it hurts and when it doesn’t. I don’t know what it is, it just isn’t right, I guess.

“Physically, nothing’s wrong. I just haven’t thrown the ball the way I’d like to, and I’m just working through it, I guess.”

This situation is getting stranger and stranger, though it does seem as if Stave is experiencing some real issues that are affecting his play. He told reporters that he's overthinking things to the point where it's affecting his throwing, including balls thrown into the ground, over receivers' heads and other things that are just off. There are issues, but they appear to be mental not physical.

“I’ll be throwing it good, throwing it good, and all of a sudden I’ll hang on to it too long," Stave said. "One will sail, one will slip, and then you’ll start thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got to hang on to it longer.’ Throw it into the ground. That’s what happens when you start thinking too much.”

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Stave's challenges are a storyline all their own, especially with starting quarterback Tanner McEvoy struggling as he did in the team's season-opening loss to LSU, but the back and forth of contradictions are even curiouser.

Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said on Tuesday's Big Ten coaches teleconference that Stave was deemed injured and unavailable for the season-opening loss to LSU but that he didn't feel it was right to announce his No. 2 quarterback was injured a couple of days before the game. Stave had a different explanation of how he felt for that game.

“I know how I felt on the sidelines, knowing that if something were to happen I felt good, I could’ve gone in and played and been ready to go," Stave said. "And just as a competitor, that’s how I’m always going to feel."

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Stave said he's been feeling off ever since he lost out on the starting quarterback job to McEvoy during the preseason. Stave started every game for the Badgers a season ago, and it was to the surprise of many when he didn't retain his job. McEvoy then struggled mightily Saturday night, and many wondered why Stave wasn't being inserted into the game as the Badgers blew a 17-point second-half lead.

“Obviously, being the competitor I am, it’s disappointing when you work hard like that for something and it doesn’t go your way. But that’s life," Stave said. "Things aren’t always going to go your way, and it’s all about how you respond to it, how you bounce back, how you handle adversity. Right now, I’ve had a little bit of adversity thrown at me. I’ve got to handle it like I’ve always handled adversity."

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Andersen said Tuesday that Stave has been removed from the depth chart, so the quarterback missing time is still happening. Though Stave seemed to believe he could come back whenever he gets these issues sorted out. Andersen said he wouldn't rule out Stave returning after the team's bye week in Week 3.

Remember, there was confusion over the use of star running back Melvin Gordon in the LSU game, too. Gordon only received four carries in the second half as the game slipped away from the Badgers. Afterward, Andersen said he didn't know why that happened, and Gordon said he wasn't injured. Then Monday, Andersen told reporters Gordon was in fact injured, bothered by a hip flexor. Then Andersen waited to report that Stave was injured until Tuesday, instead of at his Monday press conference, only for Stave to clarify that he wasn't injured hours later.

This has been a strange couple of days for the Badgers. Certainly there'll be more explanation to follow.

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UPDATE: Wisconsin changed the language in their release on Stave missing time Tuesday night to read:

"Joel has been dealing with some issues with his throwing shoulder for the last couple of weeks and we have come to a decision, after talking with Joel, that the best thing for him right now is to shut it down and give him some rest. It was a tough decision because Joel is a great competitor and has a tremendous desire to help this team. We will continue to monitor his progress but we're not putting a timetable on his return at this time."