For several years, Joe Paterno’s age has been a hot subject in college football. Is he too old and should he retire are the favorite subjects about Paterno, not his ability to coach. Quite possibly the focus has been put on the wrong subject.
Penn State’s first significant injury didn’t come to a player. It was to Joe-Pa. And age may have played a part in it.
Paterno was hit unexpectedly during practice and fell to the ground, breaking his right arm and hip. Reports are both injuries were hairline fractures and the 84-year-old will not have to undergo surgery to repair them.
Coaches get hit on the sidelines all the time. But maybe it’s time for Paterno to leave the field for his own safety. Sure older people fall and break a hip. But Paterno is in a profession and a spot on the field where the potential of him being run over is greater. But is he capable of moving out of the way quickly enough?
In a statement from the school to the Big Ten Network after the incident, Paterno downplayed it like he does his age.
“I expect to be back at practice soon. I’m doing fine; tell everyone not to worry about me. I like the effort I have seen from the squad during our first few practices, but we have a long way to go to get ready for the schedule we have.”
Practice was indoors when the injury occurred. An offensive player overran a route, strayed onto the defensive side of the field and struck hit Paterno from the blindside.
Of course this can happen to any coach focusing his attention on one side of the field or another. Coaches are run into all the time during practice but it’s more evident during games. However the subject of Paterno’s age may not have anything to do with his coaching. It has to do with his ability to move out of the way of an oncoming player.
Face facts, people who are in their 80’s don’t move as quickly as they once did. What the brain sees is a player heading towards them. But the time it takes for the brain to move the muscles is too long for Paterno to get out of the way.
This is why Penn State should institute a new rule that Paterno needs to be off the field. It’s just too dangerous. He needs to be above the field during practice and possibly in the press box during games. This may give other coaches an advantage, but isn’t Paterno’s safety if a higher concern?
In the past four seasons, Paterno has been slowed by a broken leg, an injured hip that ultimately had to be replaced and a digestive ailment that was never disclosed. Age is a factor. Paterno can’t deny it.
It’s time Penn State no longer deny it either.