Reggie Bush Is on the Comeback Trail
METAIRIE, La. -- What Reggie Bush does off the field, spending time in the spotlight because of his girlfriends and such, is not really a story. It has nothing to do with football.
But on the field, Bush has teased Saints fans. Maybe it's the overhype of his rookie season -- or maybe Bush is simply overrated.
Anyone who saw Bush in action at Saints camp on Sunday afternoon, though, has to think that maybe the running back won't tease anybody anymore.
The Saints missed Bush's speed, quickness and lateral movement for the last two years while he underwent numerous surgeries to his left knee. It was like the man they drafted out of USC in 2006 had disappeared.
On Sunday, there was a hint that he might be back. It came on a little screen pass, as quarterback Drew Brees found Bush, who hit the corner and accelerated untouched for a long run. On another play later in New Orleans' practice, Brees found Bush in a mismatch with linebacker Scott Shanle. It was a moment that Shanle later said, rather obviously, was not an ideal situation for him to be in.
Bush outran Shanle down the sidelines, and Brees lofted a nice pass so his starting running back could catch it in stride. A 60-yard touchdown. Nobody cheered, because it's practice, but the evidence was there: as good as the Saints offense has been with Brees running things, Bush makes it better.
"I'm football ready. Health wise, I think I'm good about 90-95, not 100 percent just yet," Bush told FanHouse. "It feels good to be out there and these are confidence builders for me to cut off this knee and do the things that I'm used to doing."
People have not seen Bush do his thing in the league for sometime. He's played in 38 of 48 possible games in three NFL seasons, but surgeries to his left knee have sapped him of his ability to cut across the line of scrimmage and outrun defenders with full impact. The lack of strength in his knee has also hurt him in blitz pickups -- he hasn't been able to push off the knee when faced with an ongoing rush.
The knee is almost there now, just not completely back.
Case in point: In a blitz pickup drill on Sunday, Bush initially stopped linebacker Marvin Mitchell, but Mitchell's momentum pushed Bush into a tackling dummy. Mitchell then flattened Bush to the ground.
After the drill, Bush took his helmet off and slammed it down.
"That's football," Bush said of the his reaction. "It's 100 percent physical. You've got to pass block if you want to be a complete back. It's some of the things you have to do."
If you've forgotten some of the things Bush can do, remember he's the only player in Saints history to score touchdowns via rushing, receiving and punt return. He has also returned a team record four punts for touchdowns.
In the 38 professional games he's played in, Bush has more catches (213) than any running back in the league since 2006.
Heading into 2009, Bush isn't worried about getting his touches. The Saints want him to start, but will also use Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell to help Bush move the running game.
"I just like to have the ball in my hands," Bush said. "The first five touches can be passes, and I just want to get into the flow of the game. The game's going to be natural to me, so I'm going to be fine."
One major complaint the Saints have had with Bush is his apparent lack of commitment to the team in the offseason program. He does his charity work -- he visited Africa two weeks ago -- but the team wanted him to work out in New Orleans during the summer. In the last two summers, Bush has stayed around the city, working out at the Saints' facility in an effort to get his knees right.
Bush said he feels his body is almost where it was when he came out of college.
Yes, there are issues with Bush, like that USC controversy that doesn't seem to go away, or his very public relationship with now ex-girlfriend Kim Kardashian.
The Saints don't care about those things. They care about reaching the postseason, and the last time that occurred was 2006, when they won 10 games in Bush's rookie year.
To take that leap again, New Orleans needs Bush at his best. And when he's at his best, Bush's speed makes him stand out. That was the case on Sunday.
"I think this game is 50 percent mental and 50 percent physical," Bush said. "I don't think it's all physical as everybody makes it out to be. There are a lot of strong guys in this league, because it's a physical game. You play fast by mentally knowing where you have to be at all times. Know your assignments.
"If I got a big 300-pound guy chasing me who can't run, I beat him every time."