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Conflict arises over Paterno’s remarks

Web site: Coach tells squad he’ll be around for duration. ‘Puz’ says it never happened.

A report on a Penn State Web site regarding coach Joe Paterno’s future plans could not be confirmed by university officials.

The story posted Wednesday on the site GoPSF.com noted that Paterno, while meeting with his team at practice Tuesday for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair a broken left leg and ligament damage to his left knee, informed his squad he has no plans to retire any time soon.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Penn State’s 41-year head coach told his squad. “I expect to be around a while and coaching through each of your careers.”

If that’s true, Paterno, who turns 80 next month, would be 84 by the end of his current freshmen class’ five-year run.

Jeff Nelson, the school’s sports information director, was not at Tuesday’s practice and wasn’t aware of the coach’s remarks. However, senior linebacker Paul Posluszny, during his weekly teleconference with the team’s beat writers on Wednesday, indicated Paterno never broached the subject.

“I don’t think he really mentioned anything like that,” the co-captain said. “He was more concerned about (the team) having a good week of practice, to have a successful week and go and play well on Saturday.”

The Nittany Lions (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) can secure a spot in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., with a victory over Michigan State (4-7, 1-6) Saturday at Beaver Stadium (noon, ESPN2).

Until Tuesday, Posluszny and co-captain Levi Brown were the only two Nittany Lions players to see Paterno. They went to his State College home Sunday afternoon and presented the coach with the game ball from the 47-0 victory over Temple.

“It was great to see him,” Posluszny said. “Things are a little different without him there.”

Quarterback Anthony Morelli on Wednesday said the coach was in a wheelchair when he spoke to the team at the indoor practice facility. “He talked to us a little bit and he left.”

According to the Web site report, Paterno told his players: “You might not see as much of me as I would like for a few weeks, but I’m still involved with your coaches and what you are doing.”

While Paterno recovers, the squad is being run by defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and offensive coordinator Galen Hall. Additionally, the assistants have handled all press conferences during his absence.

It is unclear whether Paterno will be cleared to watch his team’s 2006 regular-season finale from the coaches’ box at Beaver Stadium. That decision will be made by team physician Wayne Sebastianelli.

“We are not sure,” Bradley said. “We are assuming (the coaches’ box) is where he would be, but you never know with him where he might end up.”

Paterno already has pulled out of next month’s National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame ceremonies in New York. He was scheduled for induction alongside Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and 13 players, but has been ordered to limit his travel during a rehabilitation period that is expected to last between 6-8 weeks.

Penn State will be represented at the Dec. 5 event by Posluszny, who will receive an NFF Scholar-Athlete fellowship. The All-American linebacker is Penn State’s 15th scholar-athlete under Paterno.

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