Paterno said Sunday it was doubtful he would be on the sideline for the Nittany Lions' game against Tennessee. But he hasn't ruled it out.
I won't really know what I'm going to do until I get out there [Monday] morning, Paterno said at a news conference with Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer. When I get up tomorrow morning, I'm going to try to do some things. When we go over to the field, I'm going to try to be on the field when we're warming up. And then I'll go from there and see what I'm going to do. I really don't know for sure what I'm going to do.
At issue is whether Paterno will be able to take evasive maneuvers if the action on the field spills over onto the sideline, as it did Nov. 4 at Wisconsin, leaving the now 80-year-old coach with a broken left leg. Paterno has practiced making sudden lateral moves on his surgically repaired leg, but the results have been discouraging.
I did some things [Saturday]. I tried to act as if I was getting attacked, he said. I tried to do what for me were agility drills quick things, things that I might need to do. I woke up this morning and I'm sore as a dog all over the place. I'm going to do some more of those things this afternoon and see if I can work out some of the soreness. If I can, then I'll probably be on the sideline. Now whether I can stay on the sideline for the whole game, that's very debatable.
Paterno said he wouldn't consider standing closer to the bench, where he would have some protection from the action on the field.
If I'm back farther, I might as well be upstairs, he said. The biggest problem I have being on the sideline is being a distraction. I don't want a bunch of kids worried about, 'Where's Joe?' I want them to be concentrating on playing the football game. I don't want to be a guy who's a problem for them. And if I don't think I can get the devil out of the way in a hurry, then I ought to get out of there.
Paterno was in high spirits throughout the news conference, joking with Tennessee reporters when they asked him about his longevity, his iconic status and whether he had been offered the Alabama job. His demeanor was far more upbeat than at any point in the run-up to last season's Orange Bowl.
Whether the coach's demeanor can be read as an indication of his confidence heading into the Outback Bowl is an open question. Paterno may indeed be confident, but he's also wary.
We've got a tough job ahead of us, he said. Tennessee is a heck of a football team.
In other news
Paterno said he hadn't spoken to Dan Connor about whether the junior linebacker should declare himself eligible for the NFL Draft. Connor, a three-year starter, is thinking about leaving school early after a strong junior season in which he finished second on the team with 103 tackles.
If Dan wants to talk to me, he'll come to me, Paterno said. I told him, 'Whatever you do, just forget about it all and concentrate on getting the job done when we get to Florida. After that, when it's time to talk, we'll talk.'
Paterno said he hadn't spoken to any of his NFL sources about how highly Connor could expect to be taken.
I really wouldn't know what to tell him if he asked me today, Paterno said.
Fulmer said Josh Briscoe would start in place of receiver Bret Smith, who was ruled academically ineligible by Tennessee. Briscoe is a 6-foot-3, 183-pound sophomore who caught four passes for 45 yards during the regular season.
He'll be the inside receiver when we're in three and four wides, Fulmer said. He's done fine during the course of the year, so we expect to go right on.
Smith's loss came as a surprise to the Vols.
We thought it was cleared up, Fulmer said. It turned out it wasn't quite [cleared up]. You always err on the side of caution to make sure everything is in the right order. But it's like an injury. You step up and you go from there.