Saints' Bush wants to be more than decoy

December 7th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Saints' Bush wants to be more than decoy


Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - Reggie Bush never seemed phased by the wise cracks that he was the highest-paid decoy in the NFL.
Yet, after often mediocre production through his first 11 games, even Bush began to wonder how long it might take to establish himself as the prolific scoring weapon he was hyped to be when the New Orleans Saints drafted him last spring.
"Being in this position that I'm in, I have a million things going through my head," Bush said after practice this week in preparation for Sunday night's game at Dallas. "The constant question to myself is whether I'm doing the right things, am I built for this game?"
Saints players and coaches have given Bush credit all along for his versatility as a runner and receiver, which allows New Orleans to present him as a threat from a wide range of formations.
In doing so, Bush was a useful distraction to opposing defenders while Deuce McAllister ran for a team-leading nine touchdowns, or while Drew Brees passed for long TDs and league-leading yardage to Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Joe Horn.
Bush will be even more of a distraction now after scoring all four Saints touchdowns and gaining 168 total yards in New Orleans' 34-10 victory over San Francisco last weekend.
"Obviously, when a guy comes off a four-touchdown game, I'm sure there's maybe added incentive to know where that guy is on the field at all times," Brees said. "This is good for Reggie. Just as far as going out there, having that success he's used to having and displaying that attitude of every time he touches the ball he's going to make something happen."
After scoring one spectacular touchdown after another during his college career at Southern California and drawing comparisons to Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers, Bush was the runaway 2005 Heisman Trophy winner.
In late July he signed a contract with the Saints worth up to $62 million over six years, with a little more than $26.3 million guaranteed.
Of course, there could be no guarantee that Bush wouldn't be a bust.
One of his lowest moments, he said, came in the Saints' first loss, at Carolina. His first career fumble ended a potential scoring drive into Carolina territory. For the game, he ran for only 22 yards on 11 carries and New Orleans lost by three points.
The week before against Atlanta, Bush ran for no gain on consecutive plays from the 2-yard line, forcing him to wait for his first career touchdown while New Orleans settled for a field goal. Bush had only 72 total yards that game, but it was of little consequence because the Saints won the reopening of the Louisiana Superdome.
"It's been a roller coaster, but that's part of the learning process," Bush said. "A lot of people had this meter for me as to when I'm going to have this breakout game or these huge plays and obviously nobody has bigger expectations for me than myself. I'm expecting the same things, but at the same time, it's a process. It has been a little bit up and down, but that's how football goes."
By the standards of most rookies, Bush is doing fine. He had an important punt return for a score in a victory over Tampa Bay. He's on pace to surpass 1,000 total yards.
Often catching swing passes and screens, as well as lining up as a slot or wide receiver, Bush now has 73 catches for 562 yards in 12 games. He has rushed 119 times for 368 yards. Among the Saints receivers and running backs, Bush's 930 total yards now trail only Deuce McAllister, who has 939.
Bush's six touchdowns are three behind McAllister and only one behind Colston, although an ankle injury has prevented Colston from playing in virtually all of the last three games.
For much of the season, Bush's gains were modest. He seemed to lack confidence in the designed play at times, and instead of pushing hard for a couple yards through the designed hole, he'd try to find open space outside, only to be gang-tackled for losses.
Last weekend, however, he rose to a new level. He turned a screen pass into a 74-yard gain. He showed his leaping ability while diving over a goal-line pile for a touchdown. His speed bursts, stutter-steps and side-to-side fakes helped him elude tacklers on his three other scores.
"We've been saying all along that Reggie's going to have a big day," McAllister said. "The media, obviously, and the fans wanted him to have that four-touchdown game in the first game, and it just didn't happen. He had to stay patient. The next job will be for him to go out there and do it next week as well, whether it's four touchdowns or just helping this offense to be competitive. ... The talent is obviously there."
The timing of Bush's first big game could not have been much better. New Orleans has taken hold of first place in the NFC South by distributing the ball to a number of players. But Colston and Horn (pulled groin) have been sidelined with nagging injuries lately.
With those two offensive leaders out, the Saints needed a big game from Bush and got it, leaving Bush eager to get back on the field and build on it.
"It just helped me with my confidence level," Bush said. "All of the hard work and the patience and everything everybody's telling me is paying off.

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