Badgers: Starting LB sidelined with injury

Wisconsin was missing its leading tackler from a year ago when the team took to the field for the final time in Platteville on Monday night.

Linebacker Maema Njongmeta was forced to be an observer for the sixth practice of fall camp after undergoing a minor procedure on his right hand. The senior had his right arm in a sling and his hand was in a wrap. Despite his appearance, Njongmeta isn’t expected to miss much time, with coach Luke Fickell saying he could return as soon as Wednesday.

“We’ll be smart,” Fickell said. “(He will) have a big club on his hand. I think he’ll be able go and see what he can do. He obviously went the two days (of practice) before he had a quick little surgery procedure done.”

Njongmeta led the team with 95 tackles last season, his first as a starter, while finishing second in tackles for loss (12.5) and third in sacks (3.5). With former Badgers outside linebacker Nick Herbig and nose tackle Keeanu Benton now in the NFL, Njongmeta has ascended to being the leader of the defense.

“He’s played a lot of ball, so he’s not one of those guys we are in a rush to get back,” Fickell said. “I think it gives a lot opportunities for some of those young guys. But it’s hard on a guy like Maema who wants to be in there every single step. We’ll hold him back a little bit, but we’ll have an opportunity to get him back out there.”

With Njongmeta out of the lineup, juniors Jack Chaney and Jordan Turner ran with the first-team defense on Thursday.