Penn State has identified O'Brien as the coach it wants to succeed Joe Paterno. O'Brien is in the last year of his contract as New England's offensive coordinator.
"Bill is focusing on another Super Bowl run," O'Brien's agent, Joe Linta, said Sunday. "However, if an NFL team or Penn State seeks permission from (Patriots coach) Bill Belichick, then Bill will speak to them."
Bill Belichick did say Thursday morning that O'Brien would not be present at that day's practice.
"Collectively, we'll do all the things that we need to do," Belichick said of handling the session without O'Brien.
Penn State has been scouting the 42-year-old O'Brien throughout the past month, sources said, and he fits the program's profile. O'Brien is well-schooled and has a mix of experience at the college and pro levels. In an odd coincidence, O'Brien even attended and played football at Brown, as Paterno did.
Belichick wouldn't comment on O'Brien after the Patriots closed the regular season Sunday.
"We were just trying to beat Buffalo today and we're moving on to whatever's next," he said. "I don't have anything to say about any other situation other than the New England Patriots."
Penn State has attempted, and largely succeeded, to conduct its coaching search at the highest levels of secrecy. What can be confirmed is that, at the outset of the search, Penn State failed to land some of its top choices for the job. Former Colts coach Tony Dungy and Boise State coach Chris Petersen all received interest from the school, and each relayed to Penn State that he was not interested in leaving his current job at this time.
San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman also has interviewed for the Penn State job, an NFL source said.
Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen and ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak was used in this report.