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Former Penn State Players Come to Franklin's Defense

Paul Steinbach

Adam Breneman had knee trouble in high school that followed him to Penn State, where he joined the Nittany Lions as a highly regarded tight end in 2013. Breneman would ultimately transfer to the University of Massachusetts, but not before being exposed to the compassion of PSU head coach James Franklin.

Franklin is one defendant and the main focus of a lawsuit filed last week by former PSU team physician Scott Lynch, who claims he was pressured by Franklin to return injured players to the field before they were physically ready. Lynch is seeking $50,000 in damages, claiming his role as whistleblower led to his termination from Penn State. Franklin has denied the allegations.

Related: Suit: PSU Coach Tried to Influence Medical Decisions

Breneman was the latest former PSU football player to come to Franklin's defense. On Twitter, he said he felt compelled to share details of his injury-plagued two-year stint in State College, which involved often weekly interactions with the head coach. "Never once did he attempt to pressure me into playing or rush me back. He was adamant that I take as much time as I needed to get healthy,” Breneman wrote, as reported by pennlive.com. “I obviously ended up retiring and leaving Penn State, but during some of the darkest points of my career I had a head coach who was supportive and approachable. I’ll always be thankful to him for that.”

Earlier, the New York Giants' Saquon Barkley told NJ Advanced Media that as a true freshman at Penn State, he suffered an ankle injury in Week 4 of the 2015 season and now credits Franklin for keeping him from making a shortsighted decision at the time.

“I personally wanted to get back on the field as fast as I could,” Barkley said Tuesday at the NFL100 kickoff event. “And play as fast as I could. James Franklin was awesome for me. I tried to force it and he just wouldn’t allow me force it. I sat out the next two weeks and was able to come out and be healthy the rest of the season.”

Barkley went on to rush for 1,076 yards in 11 games as a freshman and would eventually became the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. “Coach Franklin’s been nothing but a role model and mentor to me,” he said. “I feel like he’s part of my family.”

Likewise, Baltimore Ravens rookie Trace McSorley, who was a record-setting quarterback at Penn State, tweeted Wednesday night about a game last fall. “When I injured my knee against Iowa, I never once felt pressured to go back into the game by Coach Franklin,” McSorley wrote, as reported by pennlive.com. “He continually checked on me and how I felt, even telling me not to push it. That messaged continued throughout the week as we prepared for our next game."

McSorley did return to play in that game, a scenario that would be repeated when he was injured in Penn State's loss to Kentucky in last year's Citrus Bowl. “There was fear that my foot pain was due to something more serious,” McSorley writes. “Again, Coach Franklin and the staff were telling me not to push it. It even got to the point where they were telling me I would not go back in, in order to protect my future.

“Fortunately that wasn’t the case and I was able to continue play. Both times I was the one who made the decision to re-enter the game.”

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