Wisconsin running back Montee Ball insists the attack on him Wednesday morning was a random event, but now Madison, Wisc., police are having their doubts.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison police believe a "precipitating event" provoked five men to jump Ball in the wee hours of the morning as he was walking near campus.
TMZ reported as much Thursday when it cited police sources as saying Ball and several teammates had been in a fight with a non-football player at a house party,. Ball took to Twitter shortly after the story surfaced and refuted the report.
"The report that I was involved in a fight is totally false," he wrote.
The initial police report called the attack "unprovoked."
Ball, who was walking behind two friends, was knocked to the ground and kicked by his assailants. He suffered a minor concussion and some facial lacerations, but was sent home and the injuries were not considered serious.
Central District Capt. Carl Gloede told the Wisconsin State Journal that police were still trying to find out the details of the possible incident that may have led to the retaliation. They were also exploring whether other football players were involved.
UW-Madison student Luke Will, who witnessed the attack, told the Wisconsin State Journal he heard one of the attackers say, "something along the lines of 'nine more football players to go.'"
"They said that two or three times and they just kept running," Will told the paper, adding that the attackers were also uttering profanities. "But that line is what really stuck out to me."
Ball was a Heisman finalist last season after rushing for 1,923 yards and scoring 39 total touchdowns. Coach Bret Bielema said Ball would not participate in the first day of fall camp on Monday but did not say what his status would be leading up to the season opener.
However, if this does turn out to be a provoked attack, Ball might be dealing with disciplinary issues.