Paterno unlikely to be on field

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – An achy Joe Paterno sounded more pessimistic Sunday about coaching Penn State from the sideline for the entire Outback Bowl – if he gets down there at all.

Sore from running through “agility drills” in trying to get ready for today’s game against No. 17 Tennessee, the 80-year-old Paterno may watch from the press box if he doesn’t feel his rehabilitated left leg is ready. Paterno fractured the shinbone and tore two knee ligaments during a sideline collision in November.

“I’m going to try to make it. I doubt it. I don’t think I’ll be able to,” Paterno said Sunday about whether he would be on the sideline for his 33rd bowl game, most among coaches.

Later in the news conference Sunday, Paterno said he would definitely be on the field for pregame warmups and decide his whereabouts from there. He doesn’t want to be a distraction for his players.

More rehabilitation was in order for Paterno later Sunday. He planned to walk through quick side-to-side maneuvers – the type of steps he’d have to make to avoid another sideline collision.

“I tried to act as if I was getting attacked … For me, agility drills,” Paterno said. “Not very happy with it. I woke up this morning. I’m sore as a dog all over the place.”

Two players ran into Paterno on the sideline during the Nov. 4 game at Wisconsin, and Paterno had surgery the next day. He watched the next game against Temple from home – the first contest he missed since 1977. JoePa returned to Beaver Stadium for the season finale against Michigan State, watching from the press box.

The left leg appears much better now, and he’s walked around with a cane at most public appearances this week. He can even walk on his own in short spurts, as he did during a bowl luncheon last week.

Tennessee coach Philip Fulmer relishes the chance to match wits with Paterno, but, like his Penn State counterpart, tried to keep the focus on the players.

“It’s not really the two coaches playing each other,” he said. “It’s the teams on the field.”

Penn State is making back-to-back postseason trips for the first time since getting bowl bids to cap the 1998 and ’99 campaigns.

Paterno’s 362 career wins are four behind Florida State’s Bobby Bowden among major college coaches. Besides bowl appearances, Paterno is the career coaching leader in postseason victories (21).

Sideline situation aside, Paterno is in quite a good mood. He typically doesn’t like having to address reporters the day before a game, but a wisecracking and cordial Paterno took the podium Sunday to offer a status report on his health and his team. The news conference at times resembled a comedy routine.

Asked what keeps him going at age 80, Paterno joked, “Good pasta, a lot of good booze. Drink some of that Kentucky bourbon.”

Then, perhaps wary that he was in Florida – a Southeastern Conference state – Paterno quickly added, “Am I allowed to say Kentucky here?”

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