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Through the stormy period, O'Brien has promised the program would not forget the victims of abuse, while also trying to keep the Nittany Lions looking forward. One of the new team rules posted on the front door of the football building includes the phrase "Ignore the Noise," referring to trying to limit outside distractions.
The revamped offseason strength and conditioning program to focus on more free weights and lifting instead of machines seems to have revitalized players, as has more competitive offseason drills. And O'Brien has instilled an open-door policy for his office, a little bit of a change from the old regime.
"It's still kind of feared (going in the office) because he's the head coach and there's no tolerance," cornerback Stephon Morris said. "Usually, back in the day, if you went to Joe's office, it was usually because he just wanted to talk to you or you did something bad.
"Now it's just like we're going in there and it doesn't have to be about anything. You can just go in there and say, `Hey, what's up coach?'"
The team is trying to have fun, along the way, as well. On Friday, many took part in the player-organized "Lift for Life" charity event to benefit the Kidney Cancer Association. The players raised a record $110,000, all while sharing some laughs during this tough time. More than $700,000 has been raised in the 10 years of the offseason weightlifting and strength conditioning competition.
Now, the focus turns to training camp, which starts in a month. And the Nittany Lions would like nothing more than to simply play football.
When they return, the players will be looking to O'Brien to set the tone as Penn State tries to transition from the painful end of Paterno's tenure to a new era.
"With what we did in the winter and what we did in the offseason," tailback Silas Redd said, "the identity (of the team) has really changed.
"It's Coach O'Brien's squad now."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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