Paterno fractured leg bone during sideline collision

Updated: November 6, 2006, 9:52 AM ET
Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Joe Paterno isn't going let a broken leg keep him from coaching his team again.

Joe Paterno
AP Photo/Morry GashJoe Paterno was carted off the field after his own player collided with him on the sideline.

The 79-year-old Penn State coach broke his left leg and damaged a knee ligament when two players ran into him during the Nittany Lions' loss to Wisconsin, and team officials said Sunday that surgery was being considered.

Paterno's son and quarterbacks coach, Jay, said he spoke with his father Sunday and there was "no thought whatsoever of not coming back this year. ... It's not even in the discussion. There's nothing more to read into this in terms of his career."

Paterno fractured the top of his tibia, or shin bone, on Saturday, according to team doctor Wayne Sebastianelli. The injury typically heals on its own with rehabilitation, though doctors and team officials were considering whether surgery would help the leg heal faster, said Guido D'Elia, director of communications for football.

"He wants to make the quickest fix," D'Elia said.

Paterno had some ligament damage to the left knee, though the extent was unknown, assistant athletic director Jeff Nelson said.

Paterno, who turns 80 next month, was trying to maintain his normal routine while working from home Sunday, reviewing tapes, talking to staff by speakerphone and getting ready for the next game at home against Temple.

"It was a matter of we should have done that, we should have done this," Jay Paterno said. "He had suggestions for everybody this morning."

The elder Paterno is in his 41st year as Penn State head coach and under contract through the end of 2008. Only Amos Alonzo Stagg coached as long with one school, leading the University of Chicago from 1892 to 1932.

No determination had been made about whether Paterno could return to the sideline for the Temple game or monitor his team from the coach's box above the stands.

Fans hoped for the best. A bronzed statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium had a bandage wrapped around the left leg, and a sign hanging around the neck that read, "Get well soon!! We (love) U JoePa!!" Former players such as O.J. McDuffie, KiJana Carter and Michael Robinson called or sent messages of concern.

Paterno's 360 career wins are second among major college coaches to the 364 of Florida State's Bobby Bowden.

Paterno was knocked to the turf at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., when Nittany Lions tight end Andrew Quarless and Wisconsin linebacker DeAndre Levy barreled into him. Quarless had just caught a pass along the sideline early in the second half of the Nittany Lions' 13-3 loss to the Badgers (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten). Penn State (6-4, 4-3) lost to a ranked opponent for the fourth time this season.

Replays showed Levy colliding helmet-first with Paterno's left leg as the linebacker fell while tackling Quarless.

Paterno stood for several minutes along the sideline after getting hit before having to be helped to the bench, where he remained seated most of the third quarter surrounded by trainers and police.

"He's a wily old rascal," Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who filled in for Paterno in the second half, said after Saturday's game. "He's not going anywhere unless he has to. He's pretty tough."

Paterno was then carted to the locker room with less than two minutes remaining in the quarter, and flown back to State College on Saturday night ahead of his team.

It has been a rough season physically for Paterno.

Paterno had to leave the sideline in Penn State's game at Ohio State on Sept. 23 after he became ill -- the first time he left the field during a game in more than four decades as head coach.

He returned briefly at halftime, then left again before coming back at the start of the fourth quarter.

In practice the following week, Paterno was blindsided by two players -- one of whom was Quarless -- going full-bore for a pass.

Paterno didn't run out with his team before the next game, a win over Northwestern, and looked a little hobbled pacing the sideline. Afterward, he jokingly referred to his "banged up ribs."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press