Penn State Football Media Day Recap
Penn State football head coach James Franklin talks about returning to play, social justice amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Penn State’s football season is set to begin in under three weeks, and the Nittany Lions are back to practice.
Head coach James Franklin talked to the media via Zoom on Wednesday and updated reporters about how his team is returning to practice amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In accordance with the Big Ten Conference, players are being tested daily, and Franklin said his team and staff are following all necessary health protocols to practice and play safely.
“We’ve gotten to a pretty good place and I think the communication has been the most important part of all of it,” Franklin said. “This is the new normal, and we all have to embrace that.”
Franklin stressed how the introduction of daily testing is a welcome sign for the program, yet he has concerns about how his players will react. After conversations with NFL representatives and other college football programs, Franklin said players cannot forgo COVID-19 precautions simply because of daily testing.
“I think one of the things we have to be careful of that I think was a mistake in some of the other sports is when you start testing every day, that’s not a cure,” Franklin said. “[Testing is] just another layer of protection and protocols. The most important thing that we can do are our choices of social distancing and wearing masks.”
Franklin said it is not realistic for the team to eliminate all risk attached with returning to play. Instead, him and his staff will try to control as many variables as possible.
For instance, the team is still conducting meetings over Zoom and will lean on the team’s medical staff to determine when it is safe to switch to in-person meetings.
In addition to medical updates, Franklin confirmed star linebacker Micah Parsons will not be suiting up for the Nittany Lions this fall. Despite the loss of a likely first round draft choice at middle linebacker, Franklin is excited for his linebackers this season.
“We feel like we got a really good group there,” Franklin said about his linebackers. “It’s obviously a position of strength and you never want to lose players, but we feel like that’s a position of strength for us. We’re excited about what those guys are going to be able to do moving forward.”
Recapping a summer filled with demonstrations about social justice in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others, Franklin talked about the role him and his team can play to improve racial relations in the United States.
“There’s tremendous opportunity there for growth,” Franklin said. “Theres tremendous opportunity there for discussions, deep conversations with your team and with your staff and with your neighbors and with your family.”
Franklin also said for there to be growth on this subject matter, people like himself must be willing to be more uncomfortable than usual.
“You have to break outside of your normal routines, and typically, when you’re uncomfortable is when you’re growing the most,” Franklin said. “That’s our job: to challenge the people in our program to grow.”
To help incite positive change in racial relations in the United States, Franklin and the rest of Penn State’s football program have been vocal about getting people to register to vote. However, these actions have been met with backlash.
“Whenever we post something or I post something on social media about voting, there’s a certain group that just attacks me on social media, or attacks [the Penn State football] account,” Franklin said. “We’re not telling anybody who to vote for. We want people to be active in the process, to do their own research, to have their own opinions and then vote how they see fit.”
From a personal perspective, Franklin said these changes can even start before election day. As the leader of Penn State’s football program, Franklin acknowledged the type of impact he can make on the college football community.
One of the handful of head coaches of color in a sport predominantly played by African Americans, Franklin said he is fully aware of what it means to be an African American head coach at Penn State when it comes to leading the team and hiring coaches to his staff.
“I think it’s really important, and I’ve said this before: when you’ve got a football team of 125 young men from all different backgrounds and all different perspectives, diversity is really important,” Franklin said. “As one of only a few men of color in my position, I understand the significance of that as well.”
Andrew Destin is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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