Still in the glow of a signature win at Ohio State on Saturday night, Joe Paterno discussed a number of topics as openly as he has in recent years.
Including his own health.
The 81-year-old coach said Tuesday he would be visiting doctors today to get some opinions on his ailing right hip that has forced him from the sidelines to the coaches booth during games and caused him to use a cane and golf cart to help get around the rest of the week.
With his third-ranked Nittany Lions at the start of a bye week, Paterno said he would consider having surgery if deemed necessary and if the recovery time is measured in days and not weeks.
“Right now I’m going to meet (this) morning and talk to the doctors, and they want to do some tests and see exactly where we are,” Paterno said at his weekly press conference. “Because I’ve really not given them an opportunity to get a professional look at what my situation might be.”
“It’s not one of those things that has to be done, but I’m uncomfortable – that’s obvious if I’m walking around with a cane – but it’s fixable. … They don’t think it’s something that is going to keep me out for a long time.”
In the event he needs some type of surgery, Paterno said he’d most likely put it off until after the season.
He did, however, mention he had talked to retired long-time NFL coach Dick Vermiel, who had a minor procedure done on his hip and was back to normal in less than a week.
“If they tell me that, I’d be stupid not to have something done (during the off week),” Paterno said. “But I think we’ve got to give them a chance to take a good look at it and give me a choice as to what I want to do.
“But I’m not gonna … I mean, we’ve got too many people who worked too hard for me to back away from (the team). Our coaches have really worked hard, and we’re on the verge of having some success in a lot of areas, and I think I have to be involved in it, and I want to do it.”
Paterno, who has said he’s also dealing with some arthritis in his right leg, injured the hip earlier this season while performing an onside kick in a practice drill.
He initially went to the coaches booth at halftime in Week 4 against Temple, but returned to the sidelines for a home night game against Illinois the next week.
Since then, Paterno has spent Saturday’s exclusively up in the press box. Aside from the pain he’s been feeling, Paterno said he was also worried about becoming a distraction on the sidelines. During the Illini game he thought people were too worried about keeping an eye that no one ran into him.
But the bottom line is that Paterno will likely need some sort of treatment.
“I think I’m going to have to have something get done,” he said. “But I want to find out from them what they think has to be done and get it done maybe as soon as I can, after the season’s over so that I can get on the road and go out and recruit.”
That last part went against the grain of the narrative that’s been playing out as the season goes along. With his contract expiring after the season and his injury problems, there are many questioning whether this season, his 43rd as head coach, will be his last.
Not that Paterno is playing along.
“You know, have I ever said I wasn’t coming back?” he asked rhetorically. “OK?”
Starting quarterback Daryll Clark will take it easy this week after suffering a mild concussion late in the third quarter against Ohio State, missing all but one snap of the Lions’ fourth-quarter rally.
Clark, who was just named a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award for the nation’s top quarterback, is expected to be ready to go in plenty of time for the Lions’ next game – Nov. 8 at Iowa.
“Well, right now (the doctors) don’t want him to practice for a couple days, and it’s not necessary,” Paterno said. “In fact, it might be good, get a chance to get both (Pat) Devlin and (Paul) Cianciolo a little bit more work. But I don’t think there’s any question he is gonna be all right when we play Iowa.
“But right now we’re just not going to use him a lot. I don’t think he needs a lot of work. I think the other kids can use the work, and I think we will use them, practice them. But everybody seems optimistic he’s gonna be fine.”