Penn State players in NFL sharing shock, sadness

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
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'Saddened' Todd Blackledge (14) won a national title with Paterno in 1982. (US Presswire)  
'Saddened' Todd Blackledge (14) won a national title with Paterno in 1982. (US Presswire)  

Across NFL locker rooms this week the biggest topic wasn't the undefeated Green Bay Packers, the rise of Eli Manning or the surprising season of the San Francisco 49ers. No, it was the stunning events at Penn State.

Interviews with players across football show a sport closely monitoring the Penn State scandal. There are dozens of former Nittany Lions players in the NFL. More than a few have attempted to speak with Joe Paterno, I'm told, but have failed to reach him.

Perhaps most stunning is according to several players the ex-Penn State assistant and accused child molester, Jerry Sandusky, recruited former Nittany Lions players currently in the NFL to assist with Sandusky's charity, the Second Mile foundation, which helped with needy children.

A number of former Penn State players in the NFL who have children helped Sandusky with his charity and often returned to the Penn State area with their kids, I'm told, to meet Sandusky and also assist in his efforts.

Once news of the allegations broke, those players queried their sons if Sandusky had acted inappropriately.

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"There is genuine concern among players whose kids have interacted with Sandusky that they were harmed in some way," said another player.

"I'm saddened more than anything right now," said former Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge to the New York Times, "and on a lot of different levels. Beyond that, I haven't really got my head around it yet."

"Just about every player in the NFL is talking about this," one said player in a direct message tweet to me. In another message he said: "The NFL is a small world. Everyone knows everyone."

What happened in one particular locker room, described by a player who was there, typifies the type of scene that happened across the sport. Before practice, a group of players started talking about the events. It was a few players, then a few more. Some 45 minutes later, the group had expanded dramatically to over a dozen people that included coaches, players and others.

During breaks in practice they talked Penn State. After practice, they talked Penn State. There were deep felt conversations, heated arguments and lengthy discussions about how Paterno should have handled any alleged transgressions.

In the NFL, the players' day off is Tuesday but many still go to team facilities and work out or receive treatment for injuries. Players told me they had planned to watch Paterno's press conference on Tuesday.

As you would expect many Penn State alumni, I'm told, are vocally expressing their disgust with Sandusky's actions. But perhaps most interestingly they, like many others, are asking questions about what Paterno knew. To most Penn State ex-players, there is extreme, unquestioned loyalty, but apparently not on this issue.

"(Really) tough hearing about this penn state scandal as it unfolds," running back Evan Royster, currently with Washington, tweeted.

"I love PSU, but I just read the 23 page indictment it was tough to read, if everything in there true it's really hard to be Penn State Proud," fullback Matt Hahn said, according to the Morning Call newspaper.

"A lot of Penn State athletes who were involved in The Second Mile feel akin to being facilitators to this," former player Rogers Alexander told the newspaper. "Because, if you're a parent, you see that these are good kids coming from Penn State to help. It lends legitimacy: 'My kid is going to be safe in this environment. It feels like we're part and parcel of pulling the wool over these parents' eyes."

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