Doctor: Paterno must coach from press box Saturday

Updated: November 8, 2006, 8:43 PM ET
Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- There's at least one person Joe Paterno will take orders from: his doctor.

College Football Insider Podcast
Ivan Maisel and Beano Cook chat in-depth at the world of college football, with discussion of Penn State, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Alabama, and USC. ESPNU College Football Insider

On the mend from a broken leg, Penn State's stubborn coach has been ordered to stay away from the field for Saturday's game against Temple.

For the first time in 29 seasons, Paterno won't be on the sideline for a Nittany Lions game -- though there's a chance he'll still be calling the shots from a coaches' box high above the field at Beaver Stadium.

Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli said Wednesday that he would also prefer that Paterno, 79, stay off the field for next week's regular-season finale against Michigan State.

"It's in his best interest not to be on the field really for the rest of the season," Sebastianelli said at a stadium news conference.

"As far being at the game, if we can make arrangements for his leg to be elevated and comfortable, we can consider that, and frankly we're going to try to do that if we can," Sebastianelli said. That call will be a game-time decision, Sebastianelli said.

Doctors operated Sunday on Paterno to repair a fractured shinbone and two torn knee ligaments in the left leg after the veteran coach was walloped along the sideline last Saturday by two players in the second half of Penn State's loss to Wisconsin.

Paterno was listed in good condition on Wednesday at Mount Nittany Medical Center, which is down the street from Beaver Stadium. The doctor called Paterno's release from the hospital a "day-to-day" decision and said the coach might be able to put weight on the leg in about six weeks.

Paterno has missed only one game in his 41-year head-coaching career -- in 1977 after his son, David, was involved in an accident. He also missed one game as an assistant.

Now, a broken leg could keep him off the field. Sebastianelli said any other patient with such an injury would typically need a several-week stay in a hospital or rehabilitation facility.

Although Sebastianelli said that Paterno was doing well, doctors were being cautious because they wanted to prevent complications, specifically deep vein blood clots.

Paterno is trying his best to shorten the recovery time.

"Every day, he says, 'Are you sure about that six weeks? Are you sure about that six weeks?'" the doctor said. "It's going to be interesting."

Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, an assistant for 28 seasons, said Paterno was eager to return.

"I think you guys know Joe, and patience hasn't ever been one of his virtues," Bradley said.

Sebastianelli said he expected Paterno back next season, and even allowed for the possibility that the coach could be on the sideline for a bowl game as long as he was off his feet.

Paterno, who turns 80 next month, is under contract for another two years.

The feisty Paterno tried to shoo away help initially after being hit at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. He tried to stand on his own before being helped to the bench, where he continued to bark out orders to his staff; he was eventually carted off the field.

It apparently wasn't the first time the coach was injured this year, either.

Sebastianelli revealed Wednesday that Paterno fractured three ribs about six weeks ago after getting blindsided by two players during a practice. The coach never disclosed the injury.

"To give you a sense of the mental and physical toughness of this guy, he had three fractured ribs and never missed 10 seconds of practice," Sebastianelli said. "He got knocked down, knocked the dust off his pants and kept coaching."

Otherwise, Paterno is in excellent health, which should help his recovery from the leg injury, the doctor said.

"Regardless of age, that injury is a significant injury," Sebastianelli said. "Obviously we have to take into consideration that the coach is not a teenager."

Paterno continues to dive into work from his hospital bed by reviewing scouting reports, game plans and practice tapes, while also needling his coaches over the phone. Bradley said the coaches are operating as if the boss will be at Saturday's game.

Considering the distractions, offensive coordinator Galen Hall said things have gone relatively smoothly preparing for Temple.

"He's very much involved in everything we do, except he's just not out there on the practice field," offensive coordinator Galen Hall said. "He's very frustrated not being able to be with us."

Paterno's 41 years leading Penn State ties him with Amos Alonzo Stagg for most seasons as head coach with one school. Stagg coached at the University of Chicago from 1892-32.

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


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE