Ready to Make a Stand?

Penn State will face No. 17 Tennessee in the Outback Bowl in Tampa on New Year's Day. And if injured Nittany Lion coach Joe Paterno has his way, he will not only be present on the PSU sideline, but also standing there.

Speaking to the media for the first time since a Nov. 4 sideline collision at Wisconsin left him with a broken left leg and torn knee ligaments, Joe Paterno said in his view his recovery from surgery to repair the injuries is ahead of schedule.

“I'm expecting to be on the sideline,” Paterno said when asked about his role for the bowl game. “I'm expecting to do a lot of things in a couple of weeks. … I think I'm way ahead of the game. I don't have any pain [in the leg] at all.”

“I wouldn't expect any less,” Volunteer coach Phillip Fulmer said. “I've known Coach Paterno for a long, long time, and he's a tough guy.”

Though he attended both practices the Nittany Lions had last week, Paterno is still doing most of his business from his home in State College. His primary means of getting around the house is by wheelchair, but he uses a walker at times to get exercise.

Penn State director of athletic medicine Wayne Sebastianelli, who operated on Paterno, initially said the coach would not be allowed to bear weight on his left leg for six weeks after the Nov. 5 procedure.

“The operation was four weeks ago today,” Paterno said Sunday. “I've been bugging [Sebastianelli] about how I can do it in five. I'm hoping that a week from tomorrow I'm going to put some weight on this leg. Now, he's never told me yes, so I have to be careful. But I'm heading for another week and we'll see what happens.”

The biggest challenge in working at home, Paterno said, is that “I've been bored silly. They won't let me do some things I think I can do. They're being cautious.”

At the same time, it has allowed him to spend countless hours studying film, which was important since the Outback Bowl opponent was not known until late Sunday afternoon. Paterno spent the previous two days crunching tape of Auburn and Tennessee.

What it has not done, however, is prompt the 79-year-old to contemplate his coaching mortality.

“It hasn't affected them in any way,” Paterno said of his future plans. “I was definitely going to coach a couple of more years, at least. Nothing has changed that. It hasn't affected them in any way. This is just a setback.”

Aside from bowl preparation, this is also a critical time for recruiting. Paterno will not travel to visit recruits at all this month but he intends to be able to make the rounds in January.

“I'm going to get in a plane and go around and see some kids,” Paterno said.


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