Nittany Lions Getting Serious

Media given quick exit at open practice as Penn State goes into the stretch run of its preparations for the Capital One Bowl matchup with LSU.

ORLANDO -- Penn State coach Joe Paterno established another record Monday. At least we think he did.

The Nittany Lions held a practice at Liberty High School in the early afternoon in preparation for Friday's Capital One Bowl. The first 15 to 20 minutes of the 12:30 p.m. session were supposed to be open to photographers.

And that's where the record came in.

As he walked from the locker room and across the track that surrounded the field, PSU linebacker and senior captain Sean Lee joked to an FOS reporter, “Don't get too close to the field.” When asked what he meant, Lee laughed and pointed toward near midfield, where Paterno was shouting at a television cameraman who wandered too close to the action.

It was later learned that the cameraman in question was from Baton Rouge, and not up to speed with Paterno's strict limitations on media access to his practices.

And with that, at 12:34 p.m. -- before defensive coordinator Tom Bradley even arrived -- the media access was cut off. As far as anyone could tell, it was the earliest Paterno had ever booted the press from a practice.

Media types from Louisiana and Orlando were a bit taken aback by the abrupt ending of the session. The Penn State beat people knew better -- Paterno is typically irritable when nosey types are anywhere near his practices and often makes a production of sending the press packing.

But you can bet it was not entirely about the action of the unknowing, wayward cameraman. This was a cutoff day of sorts for the Nittany Lions.

On the way into practice, Paterno stopped for a moment to chat with a couple of PSU beat writers. He noted that the trip had been a great one for the team, and that from the time the players arrived in Daytona Beach Dec. 20 until Sunday night, he had not set a curfew.

The first curfew was set for Monday at midnight. And the players' last chance to have fun at the local parks was Monday afternoon and evening, with a trip to Universal Studios.

“From here on out, it's all business,” tailback Stephfon Green said.

“This is the last day for fun,” added cornerback D'Anton Lynn. “After this, it will be strictly football.”

Ironically, the early close to practice meant less of Penn State football for the media. As everyone was leaving practice, Lion director of football operations Tom Venturino joked, “Now you have more time for the parks.”

Still Waiting

Penn State All-Big Ten junior linebacker Navorro Bowman has made no secret of the fact that he will enter the 2010 NFL Draft if he is projected as a first-round pick. Bowman has submitted paperwork to the NFL asking for an official evaluation of his status.

We talked to him briefly before practice Monday, asking if he had received the results of the evaluation.

“Not yet,” Bowman said.

Back in Blue

When we last saw him at PSU bowl practice on campus in early December, PSU starting safety Drew Astorino was wearing a cross jersey signifying he was not allowed in contact.

Monday, he was back in a dark blue jersey, signifying first-team status with the defense.

But he continued to wear a heavy brace on his left knee and some sort of harness on his left shoulder.

Astorino is Penn State's fourth-leading tackler with 62 stops. He also has an interception.

Blackledge is Back

After the rest of the press had been shown the door Monday, one member of the media was just arriving to take in the practice. Decked out in a Capital One Bowl hoodie on the breezy afternoon, former Nittany Lion quarterback Todd Blackledge said hello to the reporters on their way out, stopped to hug longtime PSU equipment man Brad Caldwell and then walked on in to practice.

Blackledge is doing color for the Cap One Bowl for ESPN. He is also calling the Champs Sports Bowl.

More From Paterno

The 83-year-old coach has five children and 17 grandchildren. He said all of the grandkids were in his hotel suite at The Peabody Sunday night.

What were they all doing there at once?

“They put on a two-hour show,” Paterno said, rolling his eyes just a bit while adding that he watched the whole thing.

“So how was it?” a reporter asked.

“Better than anything you guys would do,” Paterno cracked without missing a beat.


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