Joe Paterno Inching Closer to the Sideline

The Lion coach is walking with one crutch now and hopes to be even better by the Outback Bowl. A final decision on whether he will be allowed on the sideline for PSU's game with Tennessee has yet to be made, and may be impacted by the weather.

TAMPA, Fla. — His left leg broken and knee ligaments torn in an early November game at Wisconsin, Joe Paterno appeared to be in jeopardy of missing a Penn State bowl game, let alone patrolling the sideline in one.

But at a Thursday morning press conference at the Quorum Hotel here, the 80-year-old said he intended to be on the sideline for the Outback Bowl matchup with Tennessee on New Year's Day.

“I think I'm going to make it,” he said. “The only thing I don't want is to be on the sideline with everyone worried about me, because they've got to play a game and they've got to concentrate on what has to be done on the field. If they worry about not running me over … I've got to be able to handle myself. We're working on that.”

As recently as two weeks ago, Paterno had to be rolled into a press conference at Beaver Stadium in a wheelchair. Thursday, he walked into the press conference at the Quorum using only one metal crutch. He required a bit of assistance to get up on the small stage but came down the steps on his own, shooing away a bowl official who tried to help him.

Earlier, he said, “I can walk out of here without crutches [if he wanted to]. I really can.”

Penn State director off the athletic medicine Wayne Sebastianelli operated on Paterno in early November to repair the injuries. Not given to hyperbole, Sebastianelli said Paterno is “way, way ahead of schedule” in regard to his rehab.

Paterno intended to walk around the practice field a bit Thursday and Friday to see how his leg held up. He did so Thursday and used a portable stool to sit down on occasion.

“I was a little worried today,” defensive end Tim Shaw said. “He got up out of his golf cart and I thought someone might hit him.”

A final decision on whether Paterno can coach from the sideline won't be made for a couple of days. Sebastianelli said even if Paterno is cleared, the weather might change that. In the event of rain on game day, it is doubtful the coach will be on the sideline.

Asked about his relationship with the doctor, Paterno responded, “He says be careful. I say, 'Ah Wayne, you're turning into an old lady.' ” On a more serious note, he added, “I'm stupid if I don't pay attention.”

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