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Reggie Bush on right path with Saints

5/15/2011

The man who already said farewell to New Orleans and wrote how he was relaxing during the offseason was back in Louisiana and sweating it out on a football field Saturday.

Reggie Bush spoke with reporters at the youth football camp he runs at Tulane University, the same place where the Saints have been holding some workouts without Bush. James Varney has the whole story here.

But the tone of Bush’s message can be summarized pretty quickly. He was singing a different tune than what he’s been tweeting, but he came out and strongly said he wants to spend the rest of his career with the Saints.

"First and foremost to me is to be a New Orleans Saint and to retire here," Bush said.

That’s a bit shocking, because moments after the Saints drafted running back Mark Ingram, Bush tweeted that he thought he was gone. He got into more Twitter trouble when he (perhaps jokingly) said he was relaxing while many of his teammates were working hard at Tulane.

Maybe he’s had time to process what the arrival of Ingram really means and no longer views it as a slap. Quarterback Drew Brees has talked to Bush about how there’s room for the two running backs in the offense. Coach Sean Payton has said publicly he wants Bush to remain with the Saints.

The coach and the player aren’t allowed to talk directly during the lockout, but it at least seems like Bush read Payton’s quotes and has calmed down. There’s still the issue of Bush’s contract. He’s to make almost $12 million in base salary this season and is to count nearly $16 million against the salary cap.

"That's something that me and my agent and the Saints have to collectively come together and talk about and just come to a happy medium,’’ Bush said. “Obviously there's going to have to be some type of pay cut and some type of re-negotiations, and we'll do the best we can to come to a happy meeting point. And hopefully I'll be able to play for the Saints for six, seven, eight -- 10 more years."

Actually, it’s unlikely Bush will be asked to take a simple pay cut. He’s headed into the last year of his contract. The Saints can extend the deal and spread out some of the money he’s scheduled to earn.

But getting over the initial ego bruise and looking at the big picture is a significant step for Bush and the Saints. He needs New Orleans, and the Saints and the city need Bush.

Sure, Bush could probably go elsewhere. But his value might be highest in New Orleans. Bush is never going to be the kind of traditional feature back so many expected when he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2006 draft.

But he’s carved a nice niche in New Orleans. Payton knows how to use Bush properly, putting him in situations where he has a chance to make big plays. Bush also has been instrumental in revitalizing the Saints and the community in the years after Hurricane Katrina.

He’s a well-liked player and person and the tweets can be quickly forgotten. Once the lockout is over, Payton and Bush need to sit down and talk. The coach needs to send one more reminder that there’s still a significant role for Bush. And the running back needs to help make that financially tolerable for the Saints.

If all that happens, it’s a win-win situation for all sides.