Paterno says he has no plans to leave Penn State

Updated: December 4, 2006, 2:54 AM ET
Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Joe Paterno won't let a broken left leg slow him down or knock him out of football.

Joe Paterno

"I don't want to walk away from it because of this little bit of a setback."

-- Joe Paterno

The 79-year-old Paterno said Sunday he intends to lead the Nittany Lions from the sidelines at the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 and coach for at least another couple years.

"I don't want to walk away from it because of this little bit of a setback," Paterno said in a teleconference. "I had not intended to walk away from it in the next couple years because I didn't have any plans, and I still don't have any plans to walk away."

Ordered to stay off his feet since undergoing surgery a month ago, JoePa hasn't been able to pace the sidelines in his rolled-up khakis and blue-and-white jacket since getting walloped by two players during a Nov. 4 game at Wisconsin.

Paterno skipped his team's next game against Temple but returned to a Beaver Stadium press box the following week to catch the Nittany Lions' tense 17-13 win over Michigan State in the regular-season finale on Nov. 18.

"It's not like being on the sidelines," said Paterno, making his first comments to reporters since fracturing the shinbone and tearing two knee ligaments in his left leg. "It never will be."

No wonder Paterno is so anxious to get back to field level for the Outback Bowl. Paterno, who turns 80 on Dec. 21, also learned Sunday that the Nittany Lions' opponent will be No. 17 Tennessee (9-3).

Paterno doesn't know whether he will be able to lead his squad from his feet or while watching from a golf cart. That's his doctor's call.

"I'm expecting to be doing a lot of things in a couple weeks," Paterno said by phone from his home office in State College. "I'd be disappointed if I'm not on the sideline."

Paterno's contract expires at the end of the 2008 season.

In his 41st year leading Penn State, Paterno will make his record 33rd trip to a bowl game. He's also the career leader in postseason victories with 21.

Getting ready for this year's bowl has been a little more difficult. First, he's got to figure in time for rehab and getting flexibility back in the left leg.

"And I'm way ahead of that. I go out there, I have as much flexibility in my left leg as my right leg. I'm getting closer all the time," he said.

Paterno was told to stay off his feet for six weeks after the surgery, but with Week 5 coming up, the anxious coach said he's trying to convince his doctors to give him a head start.

On the job, he's back at practice, and had been watching tapes of Tennessee and Auburn, another potential bowl opponent.

Now, he can just concentrate on the Volunteers.

Tennessee is headed to Tampa for the first time since the end of the 1992 season, when they beat Boston College in what was then known as the Hall of Fame Bowl.

Penn State last went to the Outback Bowl to cap the 1998 campaign, defeating Kentucky 26-14.

"The rehab has gone well," Paterno said. "I'm looking forward to getting down to Florida and running around a little bit."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press