Upon further evaluation, Ikegwuonu's knee injury limited to ACL

Updated: January 25, 2008, 11:51 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The knee damage suffered by former Wisconsin Badgers cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu in a training accident earlier this week is limited to his anterior cruciate ligament and, while still serious, may not force the Badgers standout to miss the entire 2008 NFL season.

A two-time All-Big Ten defender who decided to forgo his final season of college eligibility to enter the NFL draft, Ikegwuonu will undergo surgery to repair the ACL in about 10 days, once the swelling subsides. He might be able to do some light jogging in three months and it's still possible he could play in 2008.

Ikegwuonu, 22, was projected to be taken in the first three rounds before the injury happened.

The injury was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Thursday, and later confirmed by several league scouts. Both the newspaper and the scouts said that, in addition to the ACL, Ikegwuonu also tore the medial collateral ligament and suffered ancillary damage to the kneecap.

But an MRI examination by respected Miami orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Uribe revealed only the ACL tear, and no further injury to other ligaments.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus said late Thursday that Uribe, the same surgeon who operated on Willis McGahee after the tailback suffered a catastrophic knee injury in his final game at the University of Miami, will repair Ikegwuonu's ACL. Ikegwuonu then will begin a rehabilitation stint with the same team of trainers and therapists that worked with McGahee before the 2003 draft.

Ikegwuonu will attend the NFL scouting combine next month, Rosenhaus said, where teams will be able to examine his knee. He will attend the combine re-check session for injured players, about a month later, and will be available to meet privately with teams before the April 26-27 draft.

"I still think Jack will be a high draft choice and still think he can play in 2008," Rosenhaus said.

A starter the past two seasons, Ikegwuonu got off to an uneven start in 2007, according to scouts familiar with his performance, but finished strong and re-established himself as one of the top defensive backfield prospects. There were some scouts who felt he would project better at free safety than cornerback.

Ikegwuonu has good size (6 feet, 202 pounds) and had been timed by school officials in the 4.4s for the 40-yard dash. League talent evaluators did not yet have an accurate time on him and scouts acknowledged they were curious to see just how fast he would run in pre-draft workouts.

Scouts said Ikegwuonu, from Madison, Wis., possesses solid cover instincts. Two scouts questioned about his skills noted that Ikegwuonu seemed to raise the level of his game against the conference's top receivers.

In 39 appearances, 29 as a starter, Ikegwuonu totaled 91 tackles, 5 tackles for losses, six interceptions, 35 passes defensed, one forced fumble and one recovery. Ikegwuonu had 16 pass breakups in 2007.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.