Paterno Angling for the Sideline

On being able to work the Rose Bowl from the field, PSU coach says, "It's gonna be close." But a final decision has yet to be made.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- One of the key questions swirling about the Penn State football team as it prepares to take on USC in the Rose Bowl has to do with an important Nittany Lion's availability to be on the field.

But we're not talking about one of the players. PSU head coach Joe Paterno, who had hip replacement surgery Nov. 23, is anxious to make a return to the sideline after coaching the final seven games of the 2008 regular season from the press box.

“It's gonna be close,” Paterno said from a media event at Disneyland attended by the head coaches and team captains of the Nittany Lions and Trojans.

Paterno said he suffered from a bit of jet lag when he and the rest of the coaching staff arrived via charter jet last Saturday. But when the team practiced Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, he made an effort to get out of his golf cart for at least 30 minutes each day, to help build the stamina it will require to stand throughout an entire game.

And just standing on the sideline is not his only concern. He wants to be mobile enough to get out of the way in the event the action comes his way.

“I want to make sure I can do some things, because I don't want to be on the sideline and be a distraction,” Paterno said.

Due to concerns about blood clots following the surgery and the flight so soon after it, Paterno admitted, “I'm still throwing down pills.”

But according to his players, the 82-year-old seems to be returning to form.

“He's going great,” safety Anthony Scirrotto said. “He's been out walking around and his leg looks good. His leg feels like it's healing fast. Hopefully he'll be on the sideline.”

“I would expect him to be out there,” center A.Q. Shipley added. “The last couple of days, he's gotten out of his cart a little bit. For him to get out of the cart, I think it is a sign of great improvement.”

For his part, Paterno, whom defensive end Josh Gaines called a “mutant,” said the hip that caused so much trouble throughout the 2008 season is no longer painful. He added that the biggest issue is getting tired when he stays on his feet too long because he's not used to it.

At the Disney event Friday, he arrived without a cane and spent the entire media Q&A session on his feet. He was also in good spirits, joking about a conversation he had with USC coach Pete Carroll just before both coaches talked to the media.

“I was kidding Pete, I said, 'I get on the sideline, you'll throw the ball more than you do now,' ” Paterno joked, implying that a few of those passes might be to receivers running in his direction.

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