Nittany Lions Stick to Talking Points

Penn State players are happy NCAA sanctions have been reduced. But they don't want the big news to cause them to lose focus on the task at hand.

Members of the Penn State football team have clearly been given their talking points regarding the NCAA's Tuesday decision to ease scholarship restrictions against the program. And they are sticking to them.

In a teleconference with reporters at 11 a.m. Wednesday, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Austin Johnson was asked about the news.

“We were happy, it's a good thing for Penn State,” he said. “But we're just really focused on this year, finishing the rest of the season, the bye week and Indiana.”

An hour later, junior kicker Sam Ficken fielded a similar question.

“It's definitely good news for the university,” Ficken said. “That was something that was important to us. But at the same time, for this team, we're focused on this year. We're not keying too much on it.”

The talking points were apparently outlined by head coach Bill O'Brien in a team meeting Tuesday afternoon, shortly before the Nittany Lions practiced.

“His message this whole season has been, 'win the day,' ” Ficken said. “That was great news, like I said earlier. But we still have to focus on winning games this year. That's what's important now and important this week.”

Well, it's really not all that important this week, as 3-1 Penn State has a bye Saturday before opening Big Ten play at Indiana Oct. 5. But Ficken's point was that the easing of the NCAA sanctions will have no immediate impact on the Lions.

“We're not going to practice any different,” he said. “We're not going to play any different. We're not going to work in the offseason any different. There's no real change for the players.”

Ficken declined to be publicly critical of the NCAA for sanctioning Penn State in the first place, saying, “I'm not really the person to interpret what happened to us. I'm here to kick the football. I'm not going to say what's right and what's wrong.”

However, he did admit that there is a sense of pride among the Lions for not crumbling after the sanctions hit in July of 2012.

“We did stick it out,” he said. “I think that's a testament to the courage of this team and how we fought through it. We're coming out as better players and better people, which is important.”

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