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Paterno won’t take a back seat

The 84-year-old coach vows to be on the sideline for the season opener on Sept. 3 vs. Indiana State.

Coach Joe Paterno answers questions from members of the media gathered for his press conference from a golf cart at Penn State’s media day Tuesday.

FRED ADAMS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER

STATE COLLEGE — Preseason camp had been decidedly tougher. To a man, every Penn State player has said the practices this August have been the toughest they have ever experienced. Naturally there was some griping involved.

So Joe Paterno addressed the squad before a practice on Aug. 7.

“You know what? I’m tired of some of you guys babying yourselves,” the coach told his players. “You get knocked down and get hurt a little bit, and you walk around like, ‘Ohhhh boy, does it hurt!’”

But as Paterno put it, “The good Lord has a way of doing things.” Later that day, he was flattened when receiver Devon Smith crashed into him while running down a pass during practice.

Paterno went to the hospital to get checked out later that Sunday for injuries to his right arm and hip. He remained there until Tuesday morning before doctors determined that he was fine to return to work.

When he got back to practice last Wednesday, his players gave it right back to him.

“After my thing, they joked around, ‘Bounce back, kid! Let’s see how tough you are!’”

So Paterno is trying to show just that at age 84, declaring that he “absolutely” will be standing on the sideline for the Nittany Lions’ season opener on Sept. 3 versus Indiana State.

For now, Paterno remains tethered to a golf cart at practice. On Tuesday at the team’s annual media day, Paterno was wheeled inside of Holuba Hall and placed in front of cameras and microphones to dish about the season.

Naturally, the coach himself was the subject of much of the discussion.

No longer sporting a sling on his right arm, Paterno shouted down a reference to an ESPN report that he had suffered a hairline fracture to his pelvis. He said he expected to be back moving around normally in another week or so.

For now, though, Paterno said he is still in some pain.

“I was off the field and I was writing some notes. The kid that went after the ball (Smith) was running full speed and he caught the football going full speed and ran right into me,” Paterno said. “I didn’t see him, so I didn’t take the fall in a good way.

“Physically, I feel great outside of that. It hurts. If I told you I could get up here and run around – no, I can’t. In about eight or nine days I should be able to do everything without having some guy driving me around telling me what to look at.”

Paterno’s recent string of physical ailments began back in 2006 when he was involved in a much more violent collision when tight end Andrew Quarless smacked into him during a game at Wisconsin. That led to surgery to repair a broken left leg and torn knee ligaments.

In 2008, Paterno seriously injured himself while demonstrating an onside kick in practice, eventually requiring hip replacement surgery at the end of the regular season.

That ailment forced him off the sideline and up into the coaches’ booth, a position he greatly disliked. So it’s little surprise that Paterno is determined to stay in the middle of the action.

The whole episode, he said, hasn’t diminished his desire to keep coaching.

“There’s no need to get out of it yet,” Paterno said. “I’m gonna see if I can get the job done. Right now, I’m anxious just to get back and get going.”

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