Redefining Reggie

By Brian Allee-Walsh
Updated: May 17, 2009

Reggie Bush (25)

Reggie Bush (25)

NEW ORLEANS — No one was happier than Reggie Bush when Saints officials weren’t able to orchestrate a deal to get former Ohio State running back Chris “Beanie” Wells in the NFL draft.

“The fact that we didn’t draft (one) speaks volumes to what they are looking from me this year,” Bush said Saturday during a break in his youth football camp at Tulane.

“I don’t know how much my role is going to change, but I think it’s going to step up a lot more, especially in the leadership role position. That obviously, naturally, will increase.

“I’m excited about the task, and it’s going to be a great task.”

The depth of Bush’s role this season will depend largely on his health and how he rebounds from a microfracture procedure performed on his oft-injured left knee in mid-December by orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

So far, so good, according to Bush, who has missed 10 games the past two seasons because of repeated issues with his left knee.

“I’m feeling really good; I’m about 75 percent,” Bush said. “The coaches are pleased with my rehab and the way it’s going. I’m pleased. I feel like I’m ahead of schedule. I’m pretty much doing everything right now (in offseason workouts).”

However, he is expected to work on a limited basis when organized training activities begin Tuesday (the first of 12 team workouts that run into June) and at minicamp June 5-7. None of the 12 practices are open to the public.

“I’m pretty sure it’ll be tapered down,” Bush said. “I won’t do as much. That’s just being careful. I’m sure I’ll be full-go in training camp.”

Much has been made of the Saints’ running back position since the release of veteran Deuce McAllister in mid-February, beginning with the apparent lack of an every-down or big back on the depth chart to handle short-yardage situations.

Bush and Pierre Thomas shared that role last season, with McAllister getting some carries when healthy.

With McAllister out of the picture, Coach Sean Payton could go to a running back-by-committee approach. The roster includes Mike Bell, Lynell Hamilton, fullback Heath Evans and two undrafted free agent running backs, Herb Donaldson and P.J. Hill.

The fact that General Manager Mickey Loomis and Payton were actively trying to acquire Wells in the latter part of the first round strongly suggests team officials are not finished trying to upgrade the position.

Regardless if additions are made, Bush is expected to play a major role in the backfield.

“For me it’s not about pressure, it’s about expectations that I’ve set for myself and everybody else is expecting out of me,” Bush said. “I’m trying to meet those expectations and trying to do the best I can. That’s really all you can do is give it your hardest year-in and year-out.

“We definitely miss (McAllister), and he was a great player and a great leader for our team. I don’t think you can replace guys like (McAllister). All I can do is try to fill my role and not to try to necessarily fill his shoes but just try to do my own role.”

Bush said the Saints’ offense has the ability to take on the personality of those prolific St. Louis Rams’ offenses known as “The Greatest Show on Turf.”

“They weren’t necessarily a power-house (running) team, but they still ran the ball effectively,” Bush said.

Which is something the Saints are emphasizing during the offseason, Bush said.

“You start implementing that now with finishing the little things, like workouts, and film room, and stuff like that,” he said. “Then, it carries over to the football field and, in turn, carries over into the games.

“That’s one thing we do have to work on is finishing football games. That is something we didn’t do last year. We lost a lot of games last year by a few points or a few yards, so we really got to focus down on that and get that done this year.”

After fielding 10 minutes of questions, Bush turned his attention back to his campers, about 300 of them, ages 7 to 14 from Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. Bush reflected on a similar youth camp that he attended in his hometown of San Diego conducted by former NFL defensive back Martin Bayless.

“As a kid, you remember things like that,” Bush said. “For me, it’s a little surreal to be able to give back and hold my own camp.”

Asked if the next Reggie Bush was in attendance, he replied: “I don’t know about future Reggie Bushes out here, but I definitely see some future NFL players out here.”

Not far from Bush, a 13-year-old from William Pitcher Junior High in Covington went through a variety of drills. For Marcus Gaines, Christmas had come nearly seven months early.

“When I get older, I want to go to USC and be just like him and run the ball just like him, the way he cuts and shakes people,” said Gaines, who plays running back for his school team and wears Bush’s No. 25.

“Being here means a lot to me. This is like, the best moment of my life.”

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