UNIVERSITY PARK - Joe Paterno came off better this time around when answering questions about Penn State's problems off the field.
Paterno's image has taken a hit the past two weeks since a report on ESPN's ''Outside the Lines'' depicted him as an angry, out-of-touch coach who griped his program was the target of a ''witch hunt.'' He has been heavily criticized by media around the nation for dodging tough questions on the show.
Paterno may have wanted to just talk about football during media day Friday, but he couldn't avoid a number of questions about the fallout from the ESPN program. He not only was more contrite this time, he also admitted some of the off-field issues could have been handled differently.
Mirror photos by J.D. Cavrich
Evan Royster, the Nittany Lions’ leading returning rusher, answers questions Friday afternoon.
''Obviously we made some mistakes,'' Paterno said. ''Maybe I overreacted in a sense that I think [ESPN] exploited a couple things.''
Paterno claims he still has not seen the ''Outside the Lines'' episode or talked about it with anyone - ''honest to goodness,'' he said - but he appeared to know plenty about the show's content.
''I think they didn't really try to get both sides,'' he said.
Still, Paterno added, ''I can't walk away from the fact that we had some kids that were [in trouble] and that maybe I didn't do the best job I could have.''
Paterno chose to get defensive when asked questions on ''Outside the Lines,'' but his posture was different Friday.
''That's all part of my responsibility,'' he said of the problems off the field. ''For me to get up here and gripe about it, I know what the problem is. Whether I've done a good enough job? I'm trying, and my staff's trying. And I think we're making progress.''
However it gets done, Paterno acknowledged the off-field issues must stop. He was asked if the captains need to be more responsible in helping their teammates stay out of trouble and said, ''I think all of us are under the gun. I wouldn't pass the buck to the players. I think I'm under the gun. I think we've got to stay on top of things.''
One way to do that, he added, is to make sure the players understand they are held to a higher standard than others.
''It's got to be a question of who you are, what you stand for,'' Paterno said. ''If you want to walk out of that tunnel and you want to have people cheer for you and you want people to respect you and so forth, there's an obligation that goes with that.''
Baker, Taylor update
Defensive tackles Chris Baker and Phil Taylor were kicked off the team two days after the ''Outside the Lines'' episode aired, leading to speculation Paterno booted the players as a reaction to the show.
''No. Absolutely not,'' the coach said Friday.
Baker and Taylor have had legal issues - both pleaded guilty to misdemeanors - but it's unclear exactly what they may have been involved in around the time of their dismissals. The two allegedly were at a swimming pool party when some sort of altercation occurred, but no charges were filed.
Paterno said he doesn't want to ''embarrass anyone more than I have to'' as he declined to offer specifics about the dismissals.
''The reasons I dismissed both Taylor and Baker are reasons that the squad knows, and I feel comfortable it was the right decision,'' Paterno said.
Making such a decision, he added, is never easy.
''Trying to be fair is not exactly the easiest thing in the world when you're playing God with somebody's life, particularly at that age,'' Paterno said.
Baker and Taylor, who likely would have been key contributors this season, are expected to transfer. Baker reportedly is considering going to Hampton, while Taylor's plans are unknown.
''They're both awfully good football players,'' Paterno said, ''and I hope they can get squared away someplace ... because I think they have the potential to play, not only in college but beyond.''
Who's calling the shots?
Paterno gave no timetable for when a starting quarterback will be named and said it may even linger into the season.
''May not happen for three, four games,'' Paterno said.
The coach wants to give both Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin an opportunity to prove themselves, and he has not yet counted out Paul Cianciolo.
''We're trying to give each kid a shot - all three,'' Paterno said. ''You guys keep talking two.''
News and notes
Paterno confirmed redshirt freshman guard Josh Marks has left the program. He was expected to compete for time as a backup this season. ''Josh is a good kid, and I don't want to get into anything negative about him,'' Paterno said. ''It's just sometimes people have to make decisions in their lives, and it's a very difficult one to make when you're in the limelight as he is.'' ... Paterno is still waiting on Andrew Quarless' summer grades to determine the tight end's future with the program. Quarless was suspended indefinitely in the spring but has been practicing. ''He knows he's got to get a certain grade,'' Paterno said. ... Linebacker Navorro Bowman and defensive back Knowledge Timmons also are back practicing after serving suspensions. ... Walk-on receiver Graham Zug has earned a scholarship. ... Cornerback A.J. Wallace has a slight hamstring injury, but it's not thought to be serious. ... Friday was the first day the Lions could practice in full pads.