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Smaller role grows on Saints RB Bush

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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Posted Sept. 18, 2010 @ noon ET
By Dan Parr

Saints RB Reggie Bush answered questions about his decision to forfeit his 2005 Heisman Trophy and he said the move was not an admission of guilt.

"It's me showing my respect to the Heisman Trophy itself and to the people who (came) before me and the people who will come after me, and that's really it," Bush said.

It may, however, provide some closure to the slow trickle of negative publicity, followed by negative consequences, that has followed him over the years for his alleged transgressions at USC.

Some have said this gives Bush a fresh start. We're told the Heisman controversy hasn't stung Bush as badly as the sanctions the NCAA levied against USC did, but he apparently has been able to divorce himself from the situation and keep it from inhibiting his performance.

Observers in New Orleans say Bush appears to be more comfortable than he was when he entered the league as the second overall pick in the 2006 draft. High expectations were placed on him well before he was drafted, and Bush himself likely envisioned greater individual success than he has achieved in his career thus far.

The "role player" tag has been attached to Bush. He had a career-low 117 touches in the '09 regular season, but he made some big plays in the postseason as the Saints made their championship run. By all accounts, he handled the diminished role well last year, and head coach Sean Payton still thinks very highly of him.

There was speculation after the Super Bowl that the Saints would release Bush or demand that he take a pay cut to avoid paying him the $8 million he was due in 2010, but Payton knocked that theory down in February when asked about it at the NFL Scouting Combine. Bush's versatility as a rusher, receiver and punt returner makes him a valued piece of Payton's high-powered offense, and Bush reported to training camp saying he was as healthy as he has been since his rookie year, which led to talk of a resurgent season for the fifth-year veteran.

Bush, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in only one game during his career, had only two carries for 14 yards in Week One. He also made five catches for 33 yards and returned three punts for just seven yards.

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