Paterno calls his health issues not 'very serious'

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CHICAGO -- Penn State coach Joe Paterno said the intestinal problems that slowed him for nearly two months were "nothing very serious."

"I'm feeling really good," he said Monday at the Big Ten Conference's annual media days. "And as long as I enjoy it, I'll continue to coach, unless I don't think I can do a good job or anybody else doesn't think I can do the job.

"We'll talk about that later. But right now I have no plans whatsoever as far as whether I'm going to go another year, two years, five years or what have you."

Paterno said his health problem had to deal with an issue "a little bit below the intestines."

It limited his ability to travel and forced him to cancel three "Evening With Joe" appearances in Pittsburgh, Hershey and Philadelphia. He also missed an earlier meeting of Big Ten athletic directors and coaches in Chicago.

"I really didn't lose any time," Paterno said. "The problem I had was not having control of some things so I had to be careful and not get into a position where I would embarrass myself. ... I hope I'm ready to go. I think I am."

Paterno, 83, looked tired and a bit thinner Monday when he met with reporters for the first time since early May.

"He spoke a little softer," former Penn State quarterback and current ESPN college football analyst Todd Blackledge said. "He wasn't as playful, maybe. He wasn't as vibrant as he's been in the past. But I think part of that is he just wants to go back home and coach."

Guard Stefen Wisniewski from Central Catholic High School believes Paterno "looks pretty much the same. He might have lost a little weight, but I think you can expect that. He was sick there for a little while. But he still has the same energy level, the same passion."

Paterno, the winningest coach in Division I-A history, needs just six wins this season to reach 400 for his career. Tailback Evan Royster said Paterno is more than a ceremonial coach.

"Oh, definitely," Royster said. "He still calls squad meetings and does his fair share of work."

Even so, Paterno's health issues and absence from the recruiting trail appear to have hurt Penn State. The Lions have just four verbal commitments for the Class of 2011.

"Well, I don't know whether it's hurt our recruiting, to be frank with you," Paterno said. "We're still in the middle of trying to get a couple of key people which would make a difference. Our problem is with numbers, and that's what people look at, is we don't have that many scholarships available."

Blackledge believes Paterno, entering his 45th season as the Nittany Lions' boss, should be the one who ultimately decides when he wants to retire or step aside.

"He's earned the right, in my mind, to do what he's been doing as long as he wants and as long as he feels that he can," Blackledge said. "I have the utmost faith in him that he'll know [when to get out].

"But if he says he feels up to it and is excited about it and has the energy to do it, I say, 'Go for it.' "

Wisniewski said he's not certain how much longer Paterno will coach.

"I don't really think you can prepare for the end of the Paterno era," Wisniewski said. "I think it's just going to happen. The way Joe's going, it will happen suddenly.

"He's not going to talk about it a lot. It will just come one day. Maybe that's next year, maybe it's two years, maybe it's three years. No one knows. I don't even think Joe knows for sure."

Paterno is hopeful that Penn State president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley seek his input when it comes time to naming his successor.

"I would hope there would be some kind of dialogue, but there's no commitment," Paterno said.

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