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Paterno will wait to get hip fixed

PSU’s 81-year-old coach says surgery won’t happen soon.

Penn State’s Joe Paterno said Thursday he will likely wait until the offseason before fixing his injured right hip.

On Wednesday, the 81-year-old coach had the hip examined in depth by doctors for this first time since injuring it earlier this season during a team practice.

Though he did not go into detail about the nature of the injury, Paterno said he was confident it wouldn’t affect him long term.

“I’m doing fine,” Paterno said on his weekly radio show. “They were trying to get me in there for X-rays, and they knew what they wanted to do. What I have is not something that can’t be fixed. It’s gonna be fixed. When we’re gonna do it, I’m not sure right now. Whether it’s after the season is over or if we wait a bit, I don’t know.”

As he did in his Tuesday press conference, Paterno emphasized his desire to get on the recruiting trail and prepare for next season despite his expiring contract.

“All I know is I’m gonna get on that road and recruit a bit,” he said Thursday. “I’m not gonna let this thing interfere with my job for this football team, this football program and a great coaching staff.”

Penn State is idle this weekend, so without a game to prepare for, Paterno decided to finally allow doctors to take some time to look at him.

In addition to his hip injury, Paterno has said he’s also dealing with some arthritis in his right leg, a long-term side effect of favoring that side since he had major reconstructive surgery to his left leg and knee in 2006.

Paterno was involved in a sideline collision out at Wisconsin toward the end of that season and had to have a broken leg and two torn ligaments in his knee repaired.

Since September, Paterno has been bothered by his ailments, first using a golf cart to get around at practice and eventually using a cane and moving from the sideline to the coaches booth for games.

After a win at Purdue earlier this month, he said he had taken more pills this year than he had his entire life.

Three weeks earlier, Paterno looked to be in discomfort standing on the turf at the Carrier Dome during a win over Syracuse. A week later against Temple, he spent the first half on the sideline before heading up to the coaches booth at halftime.

He returned to the field the next week for a home game against Illinois, remaining there for the entire game, but hasn’t stayed on the sideline since.

Though he was initially irritated when he was first asked about his injuries after the Temple game, Paterno has since been willing to discuss his status each week with no complaint.

With his current contract expiring after the season and his problems getting around, many have wondered whether this will be Paterno’s final season. The coach himself, however, has begun to poke some holes in that sentiment.

“Have I ever said I wasn’t coming back?” Paterno said Tuesday.

Penn State President Graham Spanier has said he won’t comment on Paterno’s status for 2009, saying that it’s something that will be discussed after the season. This past spring, Spanier said that the situation will be evaluated on a year-to-year basis.

“We love JoePa, and if he wants to coach next year that’s great,” starting guard Stefen Wisniewski said. “He’s obviously still doing a great job. We’re 9-0 and looking good. I realize there has been a lot of talk recently about getting towards the end of his coaching career. He’s still doing well and succeeding. If he wants to coach another year, we don’t have any problem with that.”

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