New York Giants star Saquon Barkley spoke positively about Penn State head coach James Franklin after a former Nittany Lions team doctor filed a lawsuit alleging Franklin pressured him to clear injured players for game action.
An ankle injury forced Barkley to miss two games as a freshman in 2015. He said Tuesday he might've come back sooner—before he was physically ready—were it not for Franklin.
"I personally wanted to get back on the field as fast as I could," Barkley said, per NJ Advance Media's Matt Lombardo. "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."
Barkey, who declared for the 2018 NFL draft after his junior season, added Franklin has "been nothing but a role model and mentor to me."
According to USA Today's Lorenzo Reyes, Dr. Scott A. Lynch alleged in his lawsuit that "on multiple and repeated occasions, defendant James Franklin attempted to interfere with the plaintiff's autonomous authority to determine medical management and return-to-play decisions related to student-athletes."
Lynch also said his tenure on the Penn State athletic staff ended in March after he attempted to report the allegations against Franklin to university officials.
In June, the National Athletic Trainers' Association released the results of a study in which 19 percent of the respondents reported an instance of a coach playing a student-athlete who was "medically out of participation," per ESPN's Paula Lavigne.
The survey cited one example in which an unnamed Division I football coach personally spoke to players who were set to undergo shoulder surgery in order to have them available for spring practice. At least two players declined to have the procedure following the conversation.
The FBS' Power Five conferences rolled out regulations in January 2016 centering around the level of autonomy provided to trainers and medical personnel. Under those rules, a coach wouldn't have the unilateral authority to make personnel moves on the training staff. Trainers would also have the last word on whether a student-athlete was healthy enough to play.