Big Ten football players generally view an invitation to the league's preseason media days as an honor.
After what happened to some of this year's interviewees since that July gathering in Chicago, it may be seen as a curse.
The injury list of the league stars who attended is chilling, and it helps add context to why the Big Ten had such a down year. A lot of really good players missed a lot of games — or played at far less than full strength.
Among the “Jinxed Since July”:
» Wisconsin running back Montee Ball. Four days after Ball returned from Big Ten media days, five men attacked the returning Heisman Trophy finalist on a Madison, Wis., street at 2:15 a.m. Ball suffered a concussion and facial cuts, forcing him to miss several days of fall camp.
The Badgers' rushing attack started the season so poorly that offensive line coach Mike Markuson was fired after the second game. In the fourth game, Ball sat out the final three quarters after suffering another head injury.
Ball still ran for 1,528 yards. But his touchdown total fell from 39 to 18; his yards per carry from 6.3 to 4.9; and his team's victory total from 11 to seven.
» Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead. The Doak Walker Award candidate sprained a knee ligament on his third carry in the season opener. Then he reinjured it against Ohio State and again at Northwestern, forcing him to miss four straight games down the stretch in Big Ten play.
Burkhead returned to the field in the second half Friday at Iowa, rushing for 69 yards and a touchdown to lead a 13-7 comeback victory.
» Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. The 2010 Big Ten offensive player of the year first suffered nerve damage to his throwing arm in the sixth game against Illinois. Two weeks later at Nebraska, he left late in the second quarter and didn't return. Michigan lost that game and control of its destiny in the Legends Division race.
Robinson also missed the game at Minnesota. When he returned to play against Iowa, he was a running back, having ceded the quarterback job to Devin Gardner.
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» Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray. The returning team MVP suffered a severe high ankle sprain Sept. 15. After missing two games, he returned to the lineup but as a wide receiver against Michigan. In that game, Gray moved back to quarterback after starter Max Shortell was injured, but left the game himself with another leg injury.
Gray, who in 2011 accounted for 2,461 yards and 14 touchdowns, finished this regular season with 795 yards and 10 touchdowns.
» Wisconsin offensive tackle Ricky Wagner. The potential Outland Trophy favorite missed all or parts of three games in October with a sprained knee ligament.
» Ohio State linebacker Etienne Sabino. The MVP of OSU's bowl game last year and this year's second-leading tackler entering October suffered a broken leg against Nebraska and missed four games.
» Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti. The candidate for Big Ten defensive player of the year suffered a torn knee ligament Nov. 17 and missed the final game of his career.
Ouch! It's painful just typing all those woes.
Let's hope for better health next season, and that enough players show up next July to do interviews.
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