UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The speculation surrounding Sean Lee's sprained left knee continues to grow.
Coach Joe Paterno said yesterday that Lee would miss his third consecutive game Saturday when No. 14 Penn State tackles Division I-AA Eastern Illinois in a non-conference game.
"Lee's not going to be ready to go," Paterno said at his weekly news conference at Beaver Stadium. "It wouldn't make any difference who we were playing."
Although Penn State lists Lee as day to day, a source inside the program said that there is no timetable for his return.
Lee, who has not been practicing, had an MRI last week. The source said the Upper St. Clair High School graduate did some light running Monday, and team doctors were anxious to see if Lee experienced any swelling in the knee that was injured Sept. 19 against Temple.
Paterno was asked if Lee's injury might be more severe than first diagnosed
"Well, he's got a sprained knee," Paterno said. "They don't want to push it. It's a delicate thing. If you're in charge of a young man's future, you want to be careful you don't jeopardize it. The medical people have been very careful with him.
"... Each week they examine him. At the end of the week, he tries to do what he can in practice and we got our fingers crossed that he'll be OK. Whether he's going to be or not, we're going to lean -- and I talked this over with the medical people -- on the side of being too conservative, more protective.
"We're rehabilitating it. We're bringing him along. We're hopeful one of these days we're going to be comfortable and we can tell him to go out and play."
Counting the Eastern Illinois game, Lee will have missed 16 of the Nittany Lions' past 19 games due to injury. He sat out last year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a scrimmage.
NFLDraftScout.com ranks him the 35th-best prospect in the 2010 NFL draft and the second-best inside linebacker. Lee is being projected as a second-round pick.
"The kid's been a great asset in this program, and he's got a future that goes beyond intercollegiate football if he wants to play football," Paterno said. "We certainly don't want to jeopardize that."
Lee, 6 feet 2 and 236 pounds, said last month that he did not take out an insurance policy before this season that would pay him if he sustained an injury and did not make it to the NFL.
A fifth-year senior, he continues to suit up for games and serves as a co-captain and part-time coach. He also has been fitted with a brace, which he said he likely would have to wear for the rest of the season to protect the knee.
"Obviously, it's not necessary to operate on it or they would have just operated on it and given him some time to rehabilitate it and he can get on with whatever he wants to do beyond football at Penn State," Paterno said.
"Now, whether there's damage to the tendons or not, I don't know. You said he's going to be wearing a brace.
"He and I haven't talked about that. I don't even talk to him about his injury. I just ask him how he's doing."
Lee, a preseason All-American candidate, has played in just three games this year, but is the team's second-leading tackler with 32 stops. He also has a team-high 7 1/2 tackles for losses to go along with two sacks.
"I'm sure Sean's going to be fine," linebacker Nathan Stupar said. "This injury, he's probably sad that it happened. But you got to take time to let injuries heal up."
NOTES -- Paterno said starting offensive right tackle Nerraw McCormack (ankle) and wide receiver/kick returner Devon Smith (concussion) will not play Saturday, and third-string tailback Brent Carter (knee) is doubtful. ... Backup offensive right tackle DeOn'tae Pannell (ankle), backup tailback Stephfon Green (sore ribs) and backup middle linebacker Chris Colasanti (ankle) are banged up, but Paterno expects them to play. ... Paterno was asked to comment on the future of Bobby Bowden, whom the chairman of the Florida State trustees wants to retire at the end of the season. "I don't know what's going on, so it would be foolish of me to comment on it," Paterno said.
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