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Saquon Barkley Defends James Franklin Amid Lawsuit Filed by Former Team Doctor

by on August 28, 2019 1:24 PM

Former Penn State football star Saquon Barkley has joined some of his former college teammates and their families in defending head coach James Franklin, who former team physician Dr. Scott Lynch alleges in a new lawsuit attempted to influence medical and return-to-play decisions.

“Coach Franklin’s been nothing but a role model and mentor to me,” Barkley said, according to Matt Lombardo of NJ.com. “I feel like he’s part of my family.”

Barkley, entering his second season with the New York Giants, shared a story from his first year at Penn State in which he was banged up and wanted to return to action. The then-true freshman hurt his ankle in week 4 of the 2015 season and was itching to get back on the field as soon as possible. However, Barkley said, Franklin urged him to take his time and recover properly.

“James Franklin was awesome for me. I tried to force [returning to game action] and he just wouldn’t allow me force it,” Barkley recalled, according to NJ.com. “I sat out the next two weeks and was able to come out and be healthy the rest of the season.”

This story is similar to the one shared by Austyn Carta Samuels, who was Vanderbilt’s starting quarterback in 2013, Franklin’s final season in charge of the team. Samuels tore his ACL, but he was cleared to play after three weeks. Franklin didn’t want him to rush back into the lineup, Samuels said, so he held him out of the Commodores’ week 10 contest against Florida.

Though they didn’t share any specific stories, the mothers of current Penn State defensive end Shane Simmons and former Nittany Lion linebacker Jason Cabinda also spoke out in Franklin’s defense after reports of the lawsuit emerged. Cabinda himself also called the allegations “complete and total BS.”

Lynch was Penn State’s Director of Athletic Medicine from 2014-2019. He alleges that Franklin tried to “interfere with the plaintiff’s autonomous authority to determine medical management and return-to-play decisions.” He also claims that Franklin “created a culture and climate which, at a minimum, obstructed full compliance with the aforementioned standards and rules implemented to safeguard the medical management of student-athletes.”

A former NCAA champion wrestler at Penn State who has been on the Penn State Hershey Medical Center staff and College of Medicine faculty since 1997, Lynch says that he was relieved of his athletic department duties after reporting his concerns to Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, Senior Associate Athletic Director Charmelle Green, and his supervisor, Dr. Kevin Black.

Penn State Health released a statement in response to the lawsuit:

“In February 2019, Penn State Health administrators decided to change leadership for athletic medicine and the delivery of care for Intercollegiate Athletics. This transition was completed with the best interests of student-athletes in mind, given the increasing complexity and growing demands of sports medicine, as well as health care in general. While we reject Dr. Lynch’s claims and will vigorously defend our program and its representatives, we remain grateful to him for his five years as director of athletic medicine for Intercollegiate Athletics and for his continued association with Penn State Health.”

Franklin himself came out and reiterated Penn State Health’s statement on the matter at his game-week press conference on Tuesday, adding that the players’ well-being is his top priority.



Mikey Mandarino is a staff writer for Onward State.
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