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New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush talks with ESPN about past, present and future after lockout

Reggie Bush at a crossroads in New OrleansReggie Bush at a crossroads in New Orleans

With the NFL work stoppage nearing an end, the question of who will be with the Saints and will not be here steps to the forefront.

Recently, Brian Allee Walsh of SportsNola.com spoke with Darren Sharper, who said his chances are "50-50" of returning in 2011 to New Orleans.

The most famous potential free agent is Reggie Bush. The Saints are due to pay Bush $11.8 million if he remains on the team in 2011. Most all observers agree that the price is too steep.

The question is this--are there suitors willing to pay Bush starter money? If so, he could be gone. Several have speculated that the Indianapolis Colts or Seattle Seahawks, where former USC coach Pete Carroll holds court, would be possibilities and good fits for Bush. Others have mentioned the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers as possible suitors.

If Bush does not receive significant interest from others, he remains a perfect fit in Sean Payton's offense and in the kick return plans for the Saints in 2011.

Clearly, Payton wants him back. The matchup problems he creates are a huge bonus to the Saints' offense. The amount of attention he attracts opens things up for others to make plays.

With the rule changes on kickoffs, the Saints may not be able to afford keeping Courtney Roby as a pure kickoff return man. Bush could figure prominently in that mix. How much is Bush worth to pay for being a glorified decoy, a kick return man and someone who touches the ball 10-12 times per game?

Bush sat down with ESPN'S Colleen Dominguez for a piece that ran Tuesday. Here is the text of the conversation.

"I want to be with the Saints. I know that the coaches, the owner, the GM, they've all expressed how much they want me back and hopefully, we can all find a happy medium.

My #1 priority is to remain a New Orleans Saint. I love the city of New Orleans, I love the football team and I'm looking forward to just getting this thing out of the way and get back to playing football."

After the Saints traded up in the first round of the NFL Draft and selected Mark Ingram, Bush was quick to tweet, "It's been fun, New Orleans." Dominguez asked Bush why he did so.

"I wish I hadn't tweeted it. For me, what I was thinking was that hey, I still have this big question mark over my head, I'm still due a lot of money, I'm not sure, I'm straddling the fence of whether I am going to be back or not and they draft another running back. To me, it looked as if the team was moving on without me. I basically felt terrible about doing it," Bush said.

"You know what is funny is that every training camp, a guy comes in and he

talks to us about twittering, think before you press 'send'. I was sitting right in front. Obviously, in one ear and out the other."

Bush has been plagued by several injuries during his five-year career with the Saints.

Since playing in all 16 games as a rookie in 2006, when he accounted for 1,523 yards and nine touchdowns, his productivity has decreased in somewhat dramatic fashion, along with a significant decrease in the number of games he has played in.

In the ensuing four seasons (2007-2010), Bush has missed 20 games due to injury, playing in just 44 games total. In 2007, he accounted for 1,010 yards and six touchdowns.

In 2008, Bush amassed 1,114 total yards and nine touchdowns. In 2009, he slipped to 855 yards and eight scores. In 2010, Reggie missed eight games, accounting for just 482 yards and one touchdown, hardly worth a paycheck of nearly $12 million for 2012. Bush told Dominguez about one primary reason for the many injuries.

"I would attribute a lot of it to turf, to the field turf. There's a difference between playing on grass, and then you play on field turf and I feel like that attributes a big part of the lot of the injuries that happen in the NFL with knee injuries and stuff like that. It doesn't give as much as grass. Another part of it is just being unfortunate, the unfortunate side of football. It's a physical sport. Injuries are very much a part of this game," Bush said.

With regard to his controversy surrounding USC, resulting in major sanctions against the program and asking him to return his Heisman Trophy, Bush told ESPN that he is still conciliatory though he is not sure what he would have done differently.

"I don't know. I definitely would say that I'm a better person now for a lot of things that happened in the past. You live and you learn. You try to move on and that's one of the things that I try to do. I'm not perfect. I've made my share of mistakes. It kills me every day. It eats me up every day.

All the stuff that happened with USC, it kills me. I try to just move on from it and try not to allow it to consume to much of my life and what's going on now, the positive things that are happening now. I went to USC. I still love USC. I still have a passion for it. What can I do other than try to move on and focus on the positive right now," Bush said.

Like his peers, Bush has been waiting for the lockout to end. He says he will be ready to go when it is lifted.

"I've been working out, staying in shape and just kind of enjoying the off time a little bit. For a while, it was okay, it was fun but I think now that everybody is ready to get back to work, ready for this thing to end. Once you hit like July, your body just starts to feel like, 'okay, I'm ready to get back to work, get back to playing football."

The question is, who will he be playing for?


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