Eagles' Brackett reflects on Penn State scandal

Eagles rookie tight end Brett Bracket played college football under Joe Paterno at Penn State. (Carolyn Kaster/AP file photo)
Eagles rookie tight end Brett Bracket played college football under Joe Paterno at Penn State. (Carolyn Kaster/AP file photo)
Posted: November 10, 2011

JUDGING BY the group of media members surrounding him, you would have thought the player in the middle was a bigwig on the Eagles' roster.

Perhaps it was someone like quarterback Michael Vick, running back LeSean McCoy or receiver DeSean Jackson.

Nope, it was tight end Brett Brackett.

Wait, you mean tight end Brent Celek.

No, Brett Brackett.

Who? Exactly.

Brett Brackett is a rookie tight end who was just signed to the practice squad. Yesterday was his first practice. He's so new to the Eagles that as of yesterday afternoon, there wasn't even a headshot of him on the team's website.

Brackett is from Lawrenceville, N.J., but that's not why everyone wanted to talk to him. He was a victim of bad timing.

Brackett's signing made him the only current Eagle on the roster who played at Penn State.

"Welcome to Philadelphia," a reporter deadpanned to Brackett as he prepared to speak.

Then, after a question or two about his tryout with the Eagles and other teams, another reporter said, "OK, here it comes."

Everyone, even Brackett, knew what that meant.

"What's your reaction to what's happened and what is happening at Penn State?"

I bet that was a question asked of every player ever connected to the Penn State program over the past few days.

The child-molestation scandal involving former PSU defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and the alleged coverup attempts by top university officials is threatening to tear the storied football program apart.

Venerable coach Joe Paterno, who has not been charged with perjury like other officials but is facing serious issues concerning his moral obligation, has coached his final game.

"First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers go out to the families and victims," said Brackett, who had 39 catches for 525 yards with five touchdowns as a senior receiver in 2010. "It's something that you could never imagine having to deal with. That's first and foremost."

I'm not sure whether Brackett majored in public relations, but his answer was a lead that everyone at Penn State from Paterno up to president Graham Spanier should have followed.

In one opening sentence, Brackett clearly said what should have been the first words from the mouths of everyone involved. Just try to show that you care a little bit about the well-being of the victims instead of just protecting the football program.

It wasn't going to change anything that has happened since Sandusky was arrested Saturday. Still, you might not look like such coldhearted bastards had you shown a little compassion for the victims.

"I've been busy trying to figure out what I'm doing here with the Eagles, learning the playbook and things like that," Brackett said. "I don't really know the details too much of what's going on.

"Obviously, it's just sad."

Yesterday at Penn State, a group of students rallied in front of the home of Paterno in a show of support for the coach. It didn't stop Paterno, whose contract is up at the end of the season anyway, from announcing he was stepping down.

"Everybody has their time," Brackett said when asked whether it would be strange not to see Paterno coaching. "My grandfather constantly says that nobody gets out of this world without ends - whether it's the end of your career or things like that.

"Things come to an end. Obviously, it'll be a sad day when that happens, but it happens to everybody."

Brackett said that if there Penn State players who knew about what Sandusky allegedly was doing, he was not one of them.

"I didn't know about any situations at all," Brackett said. "All I knew was that he had been the defensive coordinator.

"I'd see him around a few times, but other than that, I didn't have much contact with him. I went about my business and he didn't really come across my path."

Being with the program just a year ago, Brackett still has friends playing at Penn State.

"Like I said, things have been busy for me the last couple of days but I had a little contact with them," he said. "I think the guys there are trying to focus on the task at hand.

"It's tough. As an athlete, you learn to deal with situations. Obviously, this isn't something that happens every day. It's a lot, but tough times happen and you have to get through them. Everything will be all right."


Send email to smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/Smallwood.

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