Coach plans discipline, but criticizes media

Updated: October 21, 2003, 10:16 PM ET
Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State coach Joe Paterno might suspend leading receiver Tony Johnson, who has been charged with DUI.

Paterno said Tuesday he has not decided on a punishment for Johnson, although he is considering a suspension for a game "just because I have to send a message to the squad that it is inappropriate to be out in the middle of the week having a couple of drinks."

Johnson, 21, a senior, was pulled over early Thursday morning. A university police officer said he observed Johnson's car twice cross the center line of a campus street; the officer reported smelling alcohol and said Johnson failed a field sobriety test. A blood test indicated that Johnson had a blood-alcohol level of 0.136 percent, well above Pennsylvania's legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Paterno also criticized the news media for the handling of off-field incidents involving Penn State football players.

"Obviously, it will all get blown out of proportion because he is a football player, but he didn't do anything to anybody," Paterno said. "You guys are all going to blow it way out of proportion."

Paterno said that reporters had been overly critical of Anwar Phillips, a defensive back who was acquitted in August on sexual assault charges, and that they had been slow to report when accused players were exonerated.

Several weeks ago, Paterno said reporters had been unfair to former quarterback Rashard Casey, who was accused in 2000 of assaulting a New Jersey police officer. A grand jury refused to charge Casey.

A misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen property against defensive tackle Scott Paxson was dismissed, although Paxson did plead guilty to a summary charge of criminal mischief after police said they caught him riding an allegedly stolen bicycle. And punter Jeremy Kapinos was allowed to enter a youth-offender program on an alcohol charge, but a disorderly conduct charge was dismissed Monday when a district judge ruled that there was not enough evidence.

"Nobody puts that in the paper," Paterno said. "That is a little bit bothersome to me and I would be dishonest if I told you otherwise. That is bothersome to me. That doesn't mean that I am condoning what Tony did, because I think he was wrong. But to what degree?"

Center David Costlow said he didn't think previous off-field incidents had distracted the team, and he didn't think Johnson's arrest would affect Penn State's preparation for No. 16 Iowa.

"It's unfortunate, but we're focused on football," Costlow said. "That's something that happens, and we're going to go on and practice like we always do."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press