NEW ORLEANS â€“ The Saints players' workout at Tulane University on Tuesday morning had plenty of star power â€“ Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer, Malcolm Jenkins, Darren Sharper, and others.
But what was missing was the most intriguing group of players on the 2011 version of this team â€“ the top four running backs.
There was no Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy-winner thoroughbred from Alabama, whose skill prompted New Orleans to trade back into the first round and grab him even though the backfield already was well-stocked.
There was no Reggie â€œIt's been fun New Orleansâ€ Bush, whose jumping-the-gun tweet after Ingram's selection distracted from the real story in the backfield.
There was no Pierre Thomas, who after four seasons of fighting to earn a solid multi-year contract finally got one, just weeks before the Ingram trade.
There was no Chris Ivory, the undrafted rookie who led the Saints in rushing a year ago when Bush, Thomas, and even Ivory, were dogged by injuries.
The four players who comprise one of the deepest positions on any team in the NFL were all missing for various reasons, none worthy of being concerned about.
Brees is salavating at the prospect of having all four players at his disposal. He called the drafting of Ingram â€œgreatâ€ because it â€œadds an awesome element to an already impressive backfield.â€ He called the the running backs â€œfour guys that are pretty lethal.â€
Sure a renegotiation of Bush's contract, which would pay him $11.8 million this season, must be worked out for him to remain in that number. But I don't think the drafting of Ingram has anything to do with Bush.
Brees offered his take on how Bush should look at the situation. â€œI think, youâ€™ve got to find the positive in it and that is, no, this doesnâ€™t take opportunities away,â€ Brees said. â€œThis kind of solidifies my role and it probably makes things easier on me because it takes a little bit of the weight off my shoulders because this guy can do some things that are really going to help our offense and itâ€™s going to open things up for me. So I think in the end itâ€™s a very good thing for everybody.â€
There are a lot of people who don't fully appreciate Bush, but Sean Payton ain't one of them. My guess is, in the unlikely event Bush isn't a Saint next season it will be because he convinced himself that he could have a bigger impact elsewhere. I think that would be a miscalculation on his part.
Payton can use all four of these backs, and even if someone were to be the odd man out, it wouldn't be Bush. Thomas and Ivory come a lot closer to replicating Ingram's skills than Bush does. There's no one on this roster who can assume Bush's role.
There is no football reason for New Orleans to get rid of Bush, and I think it's unlikely the contract will drive him out of here either. I think Payton has the deepest backfield in the NFL, one that is better insured against a rash of injuries like the one that hit last season, one that can match the depth of the Super Bowl team two years ago and surpass its quality.
It would be a mistake to discard any of the key players in this full-house backfield. The Saints need to play this hand.
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