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Reminders of Paterno still abound on PSU game days

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Reminders of Paterno still abound on PSU game days

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Several times across the nine months he's been the coach at Penn State, Bill O'Brien has reiterated that his program will continually move forward, while always remembering the past.

The fans have bought in.

Though the bronzed statue outside Beaver Stadium is gone, and the record of 409 career victories erased by the NCAA, reminders of late head coach Joe Paterno still surround Penn State football game days around Beaver Stadium.

From the ``409'' tailgate banners in the parking lots, to the mementos left at the site where the statue once stood, JoePa is still with Nittany Lion Nation on fall Saturdays. And memories are sure to sprout up come Saturday when Penn State hosts No. 24 Northwestern for the homecoming weekend game.

``I don't think it's fair to pretend Joe Paterno never existed,'' Chris Bartnik, 43, said before a game last month. Bartnik, a Penn State graduate from Chantilly, Va., placed a life-sized cardboard cutout of Paterno at the old statue location.

The embattled Board of Trustees; Paterno's successor, O'Brien; and most rank-and-file fans share at least one prevailing sentiment: an eagerness to move on from the scandal that blemished the university's reputation and led to the landmark sanctions from the NCAA.

Sandusky is scheduled to be sentenced next week after being convicted in June on 45 criminal counts involving 10 boys. Prosecutors have said the abuse occurred on and off the Penn State campus.

Trustees last November fired Paterno, who died two months later at age 85 of lung cancer. In July, an internal investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh determined that Paterno and three other school officials concealed abuse allegations - conclusions firmly denied by Paterno's family and the officials. Paterno's family has said they are conducting their own investigation.

The NCAA then slammed Penn State later in July with the severe penalties including a four-year bowl ban and steep scholarship cuts. The NCAA also vacated every Penn State win from 1998-2011, and Paterno was stripped of 111 career victories - meaning he no longer holds the record for most coaching wins in major college football.

Nearly a year after the arrest on Nov. 5, 2011, of Sandusky, which set the scandalous events into motion, the issue of how the university dealt with Paterno remains a sensitive topic to many local residents, alumni and Penn State staffers.

``We still believe,'' read the inscription on a card attached to a bouquet of blue-and-white flowers left at the old statue site before the Navy game Sept. 15, a day after Penn State trustees held a meeting on campus.

Nearby was another sign written on bright yellow cardstock that read ``Fire the Cowards.''

Make no mistake: fans are firmly behind O'Brien, who has guided Penn State to three straight wins after two close losses to open the season. T-shirts with the phrases ``Bill-ieve'' or ``O'Brien's Lions'' have become hot sellers at downtown stores.

But Paterno-themed items remain just as common on game days.

One week this season, a life-sized cardboard cutout of Paterno was left at the former statue site. Another day, it was a mini-Paterno bobblehead doll.

Some fans have worn T-shirts with ``409,'' a number also found on some tailgate flags and banners. Others shirts include an image of Paterno's jet-black sneakers and rolled-up khakis, the coach's trademark sideline look.

Still others shirts take pointed jabs at university leadership and the NCAA.

``They're perfectly willing to accept that somehow it was a truthful statement that this university sacrificed its academic mission to help its football program. Nothing could be further from the truth,'' fan Keith Jervis, a 1984 graduate, said in reference to a NCAA criticism of Penn State. Jervis wore a ``Team Paterno'' T-shirt in honor of a Special Olympics charity run.

``That's not Joe Paterno's life, that's not how Joe Paterno lived his life or led his program,'' Jervis said. ``Nothing upsets me more than that, because that's what this university is all about.''

Sue Wilson, a Penn State alumnus from Ohio, hosts a large tailgate each week across the street from the stadium with a delectable spread of dips and desserts. This year, the tailgate also draws looks for various signs including ``409'' banners and a placard that rested on a bumper one week that read ``Karma has no deadline! Freeh. `Trust'ees. Emmert,'' the last name in reference to NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Wilson is a member of the alumni watchdog group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, which has been critical of the board's actions.

``Until the truth comes out, and until you deal honorably with the Paterno family, and what you've done to them, don't call me,'' Wilson, a longtime donor, said. ``No more scholarships. No more donations. There are thousands of us saying the same thing.''

Days later, at a town hall forum on campus with university leadership, student Kevin Berkon criticized trustees for removing the Paterno statue too hastily. Paterno's name, though, was not removed from a university library on campus to which Paterno's family donated millions to help build.

``The Paterno library is the only thing left. His statue, his name, there's nothing here,'' Berkon said. ``All I can say is you guys have pretty much torn this university apart. I cannot be more disappointed in the leadership here.''

Later, trustee Marianne Alexander fielded another question about if the board would ``take responsibility'' for its actions concerning Paterno.

Trustees last month said that while they're closely studying the recommendations from Freeh to improve school procedures and policies, they have never accepted the conclusions in the report, as had been assumed by many critics of the board.

``I look forward to the day when we can acknowledge Joe Paterno's contributions to the university,'' she said. ``I think at this point, we need to let the court cases play out. I'd like to see the community come together at some point. We're not there yet.''

Some alumni critics have said the board should have taken let the legal process play out in the first place, in the frantic days following Sandusky's arrest. They view the Freeh report and the NCAA decision as another rush to judgment on Paterno's actions.

Rich Mauti, a wide receiver for Paterno in the 1970s, said he's not surprised by the show of support for the late coach on game days. He attends every home game to watch his son, Nittany Lions linebacker Michael Mauti.

``It's a hideous situation. The guy that did it is in jail and probably will never get out,'' Rich Mauti said in a phone interview this week. But he remains steadfast in his criticism of how the trustees and the NCAA treated Paterno.

``The rest of the things ... we'll find out the truth and what actually happened when the truth comes out.''

For as passionate as the support for the Paterno family in the region and among many in Penn State's massive alumni base - about 560,000 strong - has been, the lurid scandal has elicited just as strong criticism against Penn State. This is especially true outside of Pennsylvania, and after Freeh said there was a cover-up.

These are tricky public relations issues facing university leadership, who are also trying to repair the school's image nationally with more criminal and civil proceedings still on the horizon.

Trustees chairwoman Karen Peetz has said that she understands the frustrations of the school's passionate alumni.

``I think, unfortunately, there will always be people who are skeptical about what we say or how we say it,'' Peetz said after September's trustees meeting. ``We're just telling it like it is.''

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Follow Genaro Armas athttp://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

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Associated Press

Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

Even though it was a bright, warm Wednesday in Ashburn the Redskins held their OTA session in the practice bubble because recent rains have left their outdoor fields to soggy to use. Here are my observations from the practice:

—A few Redskins were not present and a few who were there were not participating in the drills. Jay Gruden said that OT Trent Williams is rehabbing in Texas and that LB Zach Brown is in the process of relocating to the Washington area. RB Chris Thompson and OT Morgan Moses were present, but both were spectators. 

— It should be noted that even though Moses didn’t practice and is still rehabbing after ankle surgery, he still participated in the sideline-to-sideline running the team does at the end of practice.

—At rookie camp, RB Derrius Guice was first in line to do every drill. Today, he gave way to the veterans to all take their reps and then he went first among the rookies. 

— “Fat Rob” Kelley never really was fat but he is now lean and mean. He also seems to be a half step quicker than he was in the past. Added competition in the form of second- and fourth-round picks being added at your position will do that to a player. 

—The “starting” offensive line from left to right was Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, and John Kling. The interior could well start the season; the tackle position awaits the returns of Williams, Scherff, and Ty Nsekhe. 

—RB Byron Marshall, who was on the team briefly last year before getting injured, looked very quick with good acceleration.

—CB Josh Norman was back with the group fielding punts. I seriously doubt that he will handle any kicks in games, even preseason games, but perhaps with DeAngelo Hall being gone he wants to be available as an emergency option. Also back with the punt returners were CB Danny Johnson, CB Greg Stroman, WR Maurice Harris, WR De’Mornay Pierson-El, and, of course, WR Jamison Crowder.

—S D.J. Swearinger spent most of the special teams practice on the sideline working on catching passes with his hands extended away from his body. A little while later, he had a chance to make an interception with his arms extended. Of course, he dropped it. 

—It seems like QB Alex Smith and Crowder have some good rapport built already. Once on the right sideline and a few minutes later on the left, Smith threw a well-placed ball into Crowder, who was well covered on both occasions. 

—Eventually, CB Orlando Scandrick caught on and he swatted down a quick out to Crowder. 

—With Brown out, Josh Harvey-Clemons was with the first unit at inside linebacker. He’s still skinny but less so than he was last year. The second-year player was impressive in coverage, staying with Crowder step for step on a deep pass down the middle.

—The play of the day was a deep pass down the right side from Smith to WR Paul Richardson. Stroman was with the receiver step for step on the 9 route but Smith laid the ball out perfectly and Richardson made a lunging catch. Even though it doesn’t have to under the new rule, the catch did survive the ground. 

—WR Cam Sims had a few impressive plays. On one, QB Colt McCoy lofted one high in the air down the right side. Sims kept his focus on the ball while two defenders lost it and made the catch. 

—WR Trey Quinn had his moments. He made a good grab while being bumped by Scandrick. But a while later he dropped a fairly easy one. 

—The running backs all looked good but Guice looked the best of all of them. He had an ability to cut and maintain his speed that not many have. With the warning that they were playing with no pads with no contact and not at full speed, Guice’s vision appeared to be outstanding. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

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USA TODAY Sports

NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that allows players to remain in the locker room if they prefer but requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance.

This new policy subjects teams, but not players, to fines if any team personnel do not show appropriate respect for the anthem. 

Teams will also have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction separately though. 

The NFL Players Association released it's own statement after the news was made official.