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Joe Paterno plans return for opener

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Joe Paterno says he's in a little pain after a blindside hit in practice sent him to the hospital, though Penn State's 84-year-old leader expects to coach from the sideline for the season opener.

The Hall of Fame coach spoke from a golf cart before practice Tuesday, a week after being released from the hospital following the hit Aug. 7 from receiver Devon Smith. Paterno hurt his right shoulder and pelvis, though he said Tuesday he did not suffer any fractures.

"I feel great, except I'm in a little pain," said Paterno, who didn't leave the cart for the first 30 minutes of practice open to media. "If I told you I could get up and around here ... I can't, but in about eight or nine days I should be able to do everything without having some guy (driving) me around, telling me what to look at."

It was Paterno's first appearance before reporters since the accidental collision at the Holuba Hall indoor practice field, not far from the spot where major college football's winningest coach (401 victories) spoke Tuesday. His right arm was out of a sling.

"We laughed about it the other day," said Smith, the 5-foot-7 receiver who was running a corner route when he crashed into Paterno. "I apologized and he said, 'It's just football. That's what it is.' "

Paterno equally shrugged off a question Tuesday about what effect his latest injury might have on his coaching future -- and he offered no hints that he was thinking about stepping away any time soon. While Paterno's contract expires after this season, both the coach and university president Graham Spanier have said he doesn't need something in writing to keep his job.

"The day I wake up in the morning and say, 'Hey, do I have to go to practice again,' then I'll know it's time to get out," he said.

For now, he's just itching to get out of the golf cart. There's still so much to figure after last season's disappointing 7-6 campaign. First and foremost, who will be the starting quarterback: Rob Bolden or Matt McGloin?

Paterno, as expected, didn't tip his hand. By all accounts, Bolden and McGloin are neck-and-neck after splitting first-team reps evenly in camp.

Last year, Paterno didn't settle on Bolden until the week of the season opener. Like political candidates on the campaign stump, Bolden and McGloin each made their respective cases to start this season after getting peppered with questions.

After opening the season as a true freshman starter, Bolden hopes to rebound from a midseason slump, when he lost the job to McGloin.

"Everything has to be precise," Bolden said about the stiff competition with McGloin. "You can't have two bad plays in a row."

Otherwise, both players say they're friendly off the field. And that's good, because Paterno likely won't go the two-quarterback route.

"Only one guy should touch the ball in my opinion. It's more of a comfort thing," McGloin said. "You don't have to worry about Matt throws the ball this way and Rob throws it this way from the wideout standpoint."

Whoever gets the starting nod has one less option in the backfield with senior tailback Stephfon Green off the roster, at least for the time being. He was expected to back up sophomore Silas Redd. Paterno didn't disclose Green's absence other than saying Green "had some problems with me. I think right now, for the good of the football team, it might be better if he backs away right now."

Offensive coordinator Galen Hall expects Redd to get about 15 to 20 carries a game, backed up by junior Brandon Beachum and sophomore Curtis Dukes.

The Nittany Lions open the season Sept. 3 vs. Indiana State. Until then, Paterno plans to keep the high-intensity practices going while bouncing back from his own injuries. The day he got hurt, Paterno chided his team about players "babying themselves" for their own minor aches and pains.

"The good Lord has a way of doing things," Paterno said, "because he said to me after shooting my mouth off, 'Bounce back, kid. Let's see how tough you are.' "