Lions Get a Boost, Top Saint Out Sunday

By: AP
By: AP

METAIRIE, La. (AP) -- Reggie Bush produced teasing glimpses of his dazzling talent, but for a second straight season got too beat up to do much else.
The former Heisman Trophy winner, now in his third pro season, was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a sprained left knee. When this season ends, he'll have missed 10 games in the last two years with various knee injuries.
Treated like a savior after the Saints drafted him second overall in 2006, Bush hasn't produced 1,000 yards of offense in a season since amassing 1,307 yards in his rookie year, which was also the last time the Saints made the playoffs.
"Certainly, expectations have probably been higher on him than any guy, maybe in the history of the league coming in," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "He continues to get better, a little bit better every day, and I think that needs to be his mind-set. Just forget what people think, media or otherwise, and just worry about getting better every day and worry about what you need to do to help this team win."
Bush was not present when the locker room at the Saints' suburban training center was open to reporters on Wednesday. Saints coach Sean Payton said Bush is expected to be examined again by noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Friday as the running back and team formulate a rehab regimen.
Bush also missed the final four games of last season with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament and sat out four games earlier this season with a torn meniscus in his left knee, which required arthroscopic surgery. He returned to action for three weeks before spraining his medial collateral ligament in the Saints' 27-24 overtime loss in Chicago last Thursday night.
His latest injury is not expected to require surgery, Payton said.
"He wouldn't be put on IR if we had more than two weeks or three weeks left in the season," Payton said. "In other words, the news is fairly good, which is encouraging. It's not torn."
The Saints were officially eliminated from playoff contention last weekend. They play at 0-14 Detroit this Sunday and close out their season at home against NFC South-leading Carolina.
Early in the fall, the 23-year-old Bush appeared to be on his way to the best season of his young career, returning three punts for touchdowns in the Saints' first five games.
In all, Bush had eight touchdowns before his meniscal tear on Oct. 19. In the second game following his return from that injury, Bush had a career-long 43-yard run and scored his ninth touchdown in a victory over Atlanta on Dec. 7. Only four days later, however, he could be seen favoring his left leg after being pushed out of bounds during the Chicago game.
Payton said running backs are bound to take beatings at times and that Bush has shown increasing maturity and an ability to come back strong.
"He's someone that is going to rehab this thing well and I think we're going to be fine," Payton said. "More than anything, there's disappointment" because Bush's promising start to this season ended prematurely.
Bush played every game of his rookie season, finishing the regular season with 565 yards and six TDs rushing, along with 742 yards and two scores receiving. In addition, he scored an electrifying 88-yard touchdown at Chicago in the NFC championship game, capping the zigzagging catch-and-run with a somersault.
Although the Saints lost that game, it appeared Bush, then only 21, was on his way to an extraordinary pro career.
He may be still, but it hasn't materialized in the past two seasons.
In 12 games in 2007, Bush had 581 yards and four TDs rushing, plus 417 yards and two TDS receiving. This season, Bush rushed for 404 yards and two touchdowns and caught 52 passes for 440 yards and four TDs.
"In Year 1, obviously, he had his most complete season," Payton said. "He was healthy. He was a big part of our offense and our run to the NFC championship game. Certainly last year was the most frustrating year in that he got hurt and had to deal with a number of times where he wasn't healthy.
"I thought his start to this year was extremely encouraging, not only as a returner but as a runner," Payton said. "I think like all young players, you keep pushing and you keep learning. He's grown up a lot from a football standpoint and I'm encouraged with that."
The enduring image of Bush from this season may be the look of frustration behind his face mask as he sat under a black cloak for much of a freezing second half in Chicago.
Brees said he empathized with Bush's apparent frustration that night.
"He's used to being the guy. He's used to being the one that everybody counts on in the clutch situations, all the way from high school to college, so that's what's in his makeup. That's what's in his blood," Brees said. "He's an extremely competitive guy who works hard in practice and wants to be the guy, so I think for him, when things don't go his way or up to his expectations, that disappoints him.
"We just have to understand that it's still a growing process, but what I think he has with this team is he's got a great group of guys around him that can help bring him up and continue to help mentor him and also just kind of take pressure off of him. He shouldn't feel that pressure."


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