STATE COLLEGE – Nine days after being blindsided by one of his players in practice, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno said Tuesday he has no plans to retire and expects to be on the sideline for the Sept. 3 opener against Indiana State.
The 84-year-old Paterno, who suffered injuries to his right arm and hip when wide receiver Devon Smith knocked him to the ground Aug. 7, answered questions for 20 minutes at Media Day while sitting in a golf cart at Holuba Hall.
“Physically I feel great except it hurts,” Paterno said. “If I told you I can get up and run around, no, I can’t. But in about eight or nine days, I should be able to do everything.”
Paterno refuted earlier ESPN reports that he had suffered a hairline fracture to his pelvis. He said the first X-rays that were taken showed he had “a couple cracks.” A second set of X-rays taken a few days later showed nothing.
“I do not have a fracture, at least that’s what they tell me,” Paterno said. “(After the second X-rays), the doctor said, ‘I have good news. You don’t have any kind of fracture. In eight, 10 days, it should be 100 percent.’ ”
Paterno described how he suffered his injuries. He said he was writing some notes in the middle of Holuba Hall, Penn State’s indoor practice facility, when Smith, the fastest player on the team, caught a pass at full speed and ran into him.
“I didn’t see him,” Paterno said, “so I didn’t take the fall in a good way.”
Penn State coaches and players said Paterno was in the best condition they had seen in a long time until his mishap.
“We’ve never seen Joe like that in my four years here,” linebacker Michael Mauti said. “Everyone in the building was saying that. It was like he was 20 years younger. That’s not sugarcoating it. He was in the meetings. He was in your face. He was there.
“The past couple years he was not 100 percent. It was unfortunate that he gets hit like that. He’s screaming from the cart now. I hope he’s healing up.”
Defensive end Jack Crawford saw Smith run into Paterno and cringed.
“It was pretty bad,” Crawford said. “It would have hurt me. He stayed down for a little bit. I could tell he was hurt because he kept moving his shoulder. I guess he’s tough. He has that Italian and Brooklyn thing going.”
Assistant coach Larry Johnson said Paterno continues to astound him with his physical condition.
“I wish I could get the water he’s drinking because he was unbelievable (before the accident),” Johnson said. “It’s unfortunate that this one incident set him back a little bit.
“As soon as Joe got hit, he didn’t lie down. He believes in getting up. He jumped right back up. That’s resilient. That’s Joe. He wanted the team to know, ‘I’m up. I’m good.’ ”
Paterno returned to practice three days after the incident and again watched Tuesday from his golf cart, which was driven by director of football operations Tom Venturino. He wasn’t wearing a sling on his right arm like he was last week and he appeared in good spirits.
Paterno told how he questioned the toughness of some of his players right before he was hurt, suggesting some of them baby themselves.
“The good Lord has a way of doing things,” he said. “After shooting off my mouth, he said to me, ‘Bounce back, kid. Let’s see how tough you are.’ ”
Paterno said his latest injuries have not moved him closer to retirement. He plans to be on the sideline when he starts his 46th season as head coach.
“There’s no need to get out of it yet,” he said. “We gotta see if I can get the job done. Right now I’m anxious to get back and get going.
“I’m enjoying it. The day I wake up in the morning and say, ‘Do I have to go to practice again?’ I’ll know it’s time to get out.”