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