O'Brien defends PSU on medical care

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien raised his voice as if a freshman quarterback had just criticized his play-calling -- and that demeanor remained unchanged for about 30 minutes.

Penn State's second-year coach fielded questions about a Sports Illustrated article that criticized the medical care of his players, and he was absolutely livid. Reporters would often see an angry O'Brien after difficult losses, but O'Brien never seemed angrier than Wednesday afternoon when he defended the program against the latest series of accusations.

"Look, for the past 16 months that I've been here -- along with my staff and everybody that works in this building, along with the players at Penn State -- we're trying to do our best," he said, his voice gradually rising. "We're trying to do our best in the classroom We're trying to do our best on the gamefield. That's what we're trying to do.

"We're recruiting what we believe are fantastic guys in the program. We have a hell of a coaching staff. We got people in our building that are the best I've ever been around. And we're just trying to do the best for Penn State. And, at the end of the day, I wish people would see that and understand that."

Penn State released a list of how other schools' medical staffs operate, and PSU's practices seemed on par with other Big Ten programs such as Northwestern and Nebraska. The Nittany Lions used to have an orthopedic surgeon and team physician at every practice, before a recent change in the staff.

O'Brien alluded to that list. Now, a team physician attends every practice while the surgeon is available at least once a week. But, at LSU and Iowa, those physicians aren't made available at every practice.

So, Penn State's coach implied there was no reason for a narrative that criticizes PSU's medical care.

"I want people to understand that the No. 1 priority to myself and to our staff at Penn State are our players," he said. "We have a deep connection with our players. We are battling an uphill battle. We are at 65 scholarships, 67 scholarships.

"You think for one second I would jeopardize the health and safety of the football team? With 65 scholarships? That's preposterous."

O'Brien deflected talk of being undermined, but he clearly wasn't pleased with a statement by Alumni Trustee Anthony Lubrano, who spoke with the Harrisburg-Patriot News. Lubrano questioned whether, in evolving more into an NFL-type atmosphere, that there could be "more of a rush to get the student back on the field."

ESPN's coach of the year fielded a response to that statement before taking one more question and ending the teleconference.

"I don't know where anyone can just say a quote about something they know nothing about," he said. "I don't understand, I don't comprehend it. I don't understand how someone can make a quote that they know nothing about, and then the quote is not true. The quote is not true."