STATE COLLEGE - Penn State coach Bill O'Brien is fervently disputing suggestions raised in a report that player medical care has been compromised after the team doctor was replaced.

Speaking in an angry tone that might be otherwise reserved for an argument with an official, O'Brien told reporters that the health and safety of his players were his top priorities.

The athletic department has been responding to a story in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated that questioned the quality of care and the motivations behind the removal of longtime team doctor Wayne Sebastianelli earlier this year.

"For anyone to suggest - or perhaps outright accuse - that anyone within the Penn State athletic program would do otherwise is irresponsible, reckless and wrong," an emotional O'Brien said yesterday.

The second-year coach said he made recommendations in the offseason to athletic director Dave Joyner and university president Rodney Erickson after watching the medical team for his first year.

It was part of his job to evaluate all aspects of the program. O'Brien's superiors make the personnel decisions.

O'Brien said there was no problem with the medical care at Penn State last year, nor in the rest of Sebastianelli's 20-year tenure.

"Again, what I try to do is assemble the right team . . . the way I see the program should be run," O'Brien said. Responding to another question later in the roughly 15-minute conference call, O'Brien said he urges the doctors to be "cutting edge . . . looking for things that could help our players."

Sebastianelli remains the director of athletic medicine. In that capacity, he oversees the medical program for football, including new team doctor Peter Seidenberg.

Penn State in February released a statement about the changes, which also included adding Scott Lynch as an orthopedic consultant for football. All three doctors work for Penn State's college of medicine.