Penn State head coach Joe Paterno has taken another hard line. This time it seems to be working.

That sound you hear coming from Penn State's Lasch Football Complex is the Nittany Lion coaching staff knocking on wood. With camp set to break this weekend, the preseason has been uneventful in terms of off-field trouble.

Through Tuesday night, there had not even been a hint of trouble.

“I haven't heard of anything,” one observer said.

Observers believe the welcome quiet stems at least in part from the hard line Paterno has taken with the team since a late-July ESPN Outside The Lines piece took the program to task for recent off-field problems.

We know, we know … you've heard this same story multiple times over the past few years. Every time trouble would pop up, Paterno would rant and rave at a squad meeting, have several players' lockers cleared out, and within two or three weeks things returned to the way they were.

But there are differences this time, observers say. One was that the old-clear-out-the-locker routine was bagged in favor of more serious action.

At one point during the Aug. 3 squad meeting, Paterno shouted, “This is my team and I'm in control here.”

Less than a week earlier, he booted defensive linemen Chris Baker and Phillip Taylor from the team for repeated off-field nonsense. At the same time, he called out several name players for doing poorly in their off-season conditioning, including since departed offensive lineman Josh Marks.

But beyond actually taking action against players -- rather than hitting them with relatively idle threats -- he also laid down the law with his staff, threatening to fire anyone who leaked info the media.

Meanwhile, observers say he took note that while his assistant coaches are keys to resolving off-field issues, that some of them were bending over backward to protect “their” players -- athletes they recruited and/or who are at their particular position.

“He stopped listening to some of the assistants on that stuff and is running it his way,” an observer said. “It's kind of like the old days around here, which isn't all bad.”

Another observer said many of the players who have “kept their noses clean” have welcomed the change because they felt something of a double standard had been in place.

It obviously remains to be seen if the lull in not-so-good off-field news continues. But as one program observer said, "So far, so good."


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