Penn State players react to 'death penalty' rumors

1:26 PM, Jul 14, 2012   |    comments
Penn State senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill.
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STATE COLLEGE, PA - The signs with the words "ignore the noise" typed on them were among the first papers head coach Bill O'Brien plastered on the doors of the Lasch Building in January.

Nearly six months later, O'Brien's players say they continue to look at the signs, this time serving as reminders to avoid reading into the reports about Penn State University and the state of their football program.

As the program moves through its darkest days with questions about Joe Paterno's legacy continuing to mount on the heels of the Freeh Report and the verdict in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse trial, the Lions don't want to think about what could happen if the NCAA decides to step in and hand out the "death penalty."

"When you hear the 'death penalty' you think it can't happen but with all things you just don't know what will happen," senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill said during the Lions' annual charity event, Lift for Life. "When that time comes, if it comes, then we'll worry about that. Right now our eyes are looking forward to what's coming up."

On the field, running back Silas Redd said he and his teammates are moving in the right direction and grasping O'Brien's pro-style offense. In the weight room, players said the new strength and conditioning program has them ahead of where they were last summer.

However, tuning out the rumors about what's happened to their program and the opinions about what needs to be done, has been anything but easy.

"There are rumors everyday," linebacker Gerald Hodges said. "There are rumors in the papers. There are rumors on the news. If we listen to every rumor that people say we'll be somewhere stressed out worrying about if we'll be able to play football. We don't pay it any mind."

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Reminders of the old regime and the Penn State scandal are all around the players as rumors of removing Paterno's bronze statue continue. Visitors continued to place flowers at the statue as well as one sign written on bright yellow paper that read, "Remember: He was a man. Not a God!!!"

Redd, Hill and teammate Stephon Morris said they'd like to see Paterno's statue stay put. Hill would like to get a picture next to it when he wears his cap and gown and Redd added, "He's done more good than any bad he's done at Penn State, I think."

Not wanting to rip open their fresh wounds from early November when Paterno was fired, several players said they chose not to read the Freeh Report or watch coverage of it. The Paterno they remember was their coach, not a man who failed to act. Players didn't want to deal with the emotions of it all and said the public's opinion about the program will only serve as additional motivation.

"I'm still a big supporter of coach Paterno and he is one of the reasons that I'm here," Hill said. "All you can really say is that no man is perfect at all."

Repairing the program's tarnished image will take time and the Penn State athletic department confirmed plans on Friday to restore the Lasch Building shower where some of Sandusky's sexual acts with children occurred. The project will begin when the legal proceedings are complete.

"It's definitely a tough situation that we're in here, but we have no control over what is going on," quarterback Matt McGloin said. "All we need to do is continue to focus on the rest of this summer, take it day by day and prepare ourselves for camp and for Ohio on Sept. 1."

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