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James Franklin Talks Coronavirus Pandemic, Outlook For 2020 Season On ESPN’s College Football Podcast

James Franklin joined Kevin Negandhi and David Pollack on “The College Football Podcast With Herbie & Pollack” Monday to discuss several topics surrounding his team, his family, and how they’ve all handled the coronavirus pandemic. The Penn State football head coach also explained his general outlook for the 2020 season in the nearly 30-minute interview.

Franklin first mentioned this his youngest daughter, Addison, has sickle cell disease. With this in mind, he and his family have decided that it’s best for them to stay in in Florida while he remains in Pennsylvania during the entirety of the college football season.

The head coach stated that he and his wife are “very careful” in making sure their daughter isn’t in a situation where she could be exposed to the coronavirus.

“My wife and kids are going to stay separate from me for the season just because we don’t feel like I can go to work and come home and interact with them with her autoimmune disease,” Franklin said. “It’s a little unique from that perspective, but we also understand that we’re blessed to be fortunate enough to make that decision.”

Franklin added that his family’s absence will be a huge change not only for him, but also his team. He mentioned that his wife and kids normally come to his office and visit practice “almost everyday.”

Along with his family, Franklin also discussed how he’s talking to his players about the many issues surrounding racial injustice in the United States today. While it hasn’t been easy, he said he’s extremely proud of how willing his team has been to have an open dialogue. He mentioned that they’ve held five voluntary calls and have had at least 100 people on each one.

“Because of the topic and the subject matter, you got really smart people who aren’t having these conversations because it’s uncomfortable,” Franklin said. “That’s what we have to get past. We have to create an environment where people are willing to take risks and have the conversations. As a team we have to come up with short-term solutions and action plans.”

Outside of those discussions, the program has also worked slowly to allow its student-athletes to return to campus in hopes of starting the season on time. Franklin stated that he and his staff have remained “transparent” with players and their parents, as he knows there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of the virus.

“For us to sit here and think we’re gonna reduce all risk, we’re not,” Franklin said. “You have to be comfortable with the policy and procedures we have in place. But we’ve made it very clear and obvious to everybody that this is not mandatory, this is voluntary.

“If you’re not comfortable coming back, don’t come back,” Franklin added.

Franklin shared that six scholarship players have yet to return to campus, with 48 total players still not back. The head coach said he completely understands those decisions, as there’s no way to ensure the entire surrounding community is following protocol.

The interview closed out with a discussion on one of Penn State’s most valuable players entering this season in Micah Parsons. The junior linebacker led last year’s squad with 109 total tackles, along with 5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and five pass deflections.

Franklin described his star linebacker as an “eraser” on the defensive side of the ball.

Along with Parsons and several other returning starters, Franklin has plenty of confidence in this year’s team.

“I think we’ve got a chance to have one of our best teams that we’ve had,” Franklin said. “We’ve got so much experience coming back, and we’ve got so many playmakers coming back. We have a preseason All-American on offense and defense, and multiple other players that I think should be part of that conversation as well.

“I love all of the stuff that these guys are getting preseason, but at the end of the day, as we all know, it’s gonna be about how you play on Saturdays and where we’re at at the end of the season,” Franklin added.

Franklin’s full interview with Negandhi and Pollack can be listened to here.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a junior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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