By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers’ new punter, Jeremy Kapinos was swarmed nearly as much as safety Ryan Clark during Wednesday’s lunch-time interview session, but not for his performance against the Baltimore Ravens.
Kapinos was peppered with questions about his alma mater, Penn State, which has dominated the headlines the past few days. Kapinos clearly spoke from the heart about the Nittany Lions and head coach Joe Paterno.
“I owe a great deal to Coach Paterno for the opportunity that he gave me,” Kapinos said.
“Coming out of high school, I wasn’t a kid who had the best grades, but he told me that he wanted me to punt for him as long as I got my grades up. So, I worked hard my senior year and was redshirted as a freshman to work on academics, and then I punted for him for four years.
“I took him for his word back then, and I take him for his word right now. I’m forever indebted to JoePa. There are three groups of people that I owe everything to in my life. Obviously, my parents are first. Then, it’s my high school coach. And after that, it’s Coach Paterno.”
Kapinos began his PSU career several years after Jerry Sandusky resigned as the Nittany Lions’ defensive coordinator and said he never saw the former coach on campus, but he and the other former players he has talked with are in disbelief about the entire situation.
“We’re all embarrassed that this is the type of news that’s being associated with Penn State,” Kapinos said. “But I think we’re all still proud to be from Penn State and a part of that tradition. Obviously, everybody who’s heard about this is disturbed by this. It’s gross, and it’s a crime where, if it’s true, it’s the worst of the worst. But, like I’ve said, I stand behind Coach Paterno.
“He’s a guy who has kept players out of games for missing class, so for people to think that he did anything in terms of covering this up, I don’t necessarily thing that’s his M.O. (And) it’s sad to think that it’s all going to end for him this way. I’m always proud to be a Penn Stater, and I’ll say that forever. But it’s definitely sad and the wrong kind of news.”
When pressed about Paterno and how he handled the incident, Kapinos said he was disgusted by what Sandusky allegedly did. But that didn’t change his opinions about Paterno.
“Like I’ve said, I stand behind Coach Paterno 100 percent,” Kapinos said. “That’s my coach, and I’ll forever have a debt of gratitude to him for giving me an opportunity and in a sense, giving me a life. Everything I have (achieved) in football is due in part to him. And the opportunity he gave me and the chance that he gave me coming out of high school, Coach Paterno is my guy.”
Actual Football Question?
Kapinos was asked about the final minutes against the Ravens when the field-goal unit — he is the holder — was sent onto the field late by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and received a delay of game penalty. So, instead of attempting a 47-yard field goal, the Steelers were forced to punt.
“It wasn’t clear what we would do, but I just got here,” Kapinos said. “So, we had some things planned, but everybody wasn’t on the same page. Now, we are, so we’ll be fine (in future games).”
More On Clark Fine
Tomlin released the following statement as his only comment on Clark’s $40,000 fine.
“I think the fine that Ryan Clark received was excessive,” Tomlin said. “I am a proponent of player safety and the league’s pursuit of improvement in this area. I, like the vast majority of people in this industry, witness daily the steep price that these young men pay to play this game on so many levels. Ryan has my full support if he chooses to appeal this in any way.”
Clark expected to appeal the fine in an attempt to get it reduced, but the number is the minimum for a second offense.
James Harrison Weighs In
“They leave me alone, and I’ll leave them alone,” Harrison said when asked to comment on Clark’s fine.
Should De Smith get involved?
“Who’s that,” Harrison said, dripping with sarcasm. “That’s his job. I would think he should do something, because right now it seems like they’re doing whatever they want to.”
The Steelers were the only NFL team to not vote to sign their rights away in the new CBA.
“Everybody else did, but it is what it is,” Harrison said. “(But) my name is Bennett and I’m not in it. So, I’m not saying anything else.”
The Steelers’ injury report noted that WR Arnaz Battle (hamstring), WR Jerricho Cotchery (knee), S Troy Polamalu (ribs), WR Emmanuel Sanders (knee), LB Stevenson Sylvester (knee) and OLB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday, while ILB James Farrior (calf), OG Doug Legursky (toe) and WR Hines Ward (concussion) were full participants.
For the Cincinnati Bengals, CB Nate Clements (knee), S Chris Crocker (knee), DE Carlos Dunlap (hamstring), TE Donald Lee (foot) and RB Brian Leonard (knee) did not practice Wednesday. There also was a lengthy group limited in practice that included WR Andre Caldwell (groin), TE Jermaine Gresham (hamstring), LB Thomas Howard (hamstring), CB Adam Jones (hamstring), LB Rey Maualuga (ankle) and OT Andre Smith (toe).