At the end of last season, Reggie Bush told the media he planned to spend more time at the Saints’ facility, more time working out with his teammates and more time watching film.
It’s all part of the running back’s fresh start approach to the 2008 season.
And it’s paid off.
“Yeah, I definitely think it benefited me this offseason just because you can't substitute being around your teammates, being around your coaches more, getting a little extra film in, a little extra weightlifting in with your teammates, the little things that can't substitute for being around the facility," he said.
Bush certainly needed to try something different after last season. Handed the No. 1 tailback position after RB Deuce McAllister’s season-ending injury in Week 3, Bush never quite lived up to expectations. He never cleared 100 yards rushing in any of his starts, plus only rushed for more than 75 yards in one start. While he still caught 73 passes for the season, Bush fell two yards shy of 1,000 combined yards rushing and receiving and missed the final four games with a knee injury.
The former first-round pick absorbed criticism from all corners for his performance last season. Hence the changes in his workout and offseason training location.
Working with a new running backs coach – Aaron Kromer, a former Bucs assistant, was hired in February – has given Bush a sharper direction as well.
“He has helped me focus on the little things that are going to help me improve my game and I think that is the most important thing, to just try and better myself and to be one of the best running backs year in and year out, and being a thorough running back throughout all aspects of the game,” Bush said.
After a mediocre 2007 season, Bush is ready to show New Orleans’ fans – and the rest of the NFL – he’s one of the league’s elite running backs.
As for the Saints running game, Bush offers a prediction.
“I think if we are able to get back to where we were my first year then I think we are going to be unstoppable,” Bush said. “I definitely think I am going to be better this year, this being my third year and just having that experience under my belt I definitely think helps me out a lot. I'm definitely a lot smarter this year. So now the game is on, I am able to slow it down a little bit and to just focus on the little things."
That first year — 2006 — Bush gained more than 1,300 combined yards, scored eight touchdowns and returned a punt for a touchdown against Tampa Bay. Combined with McAllister, the pair fueled the Saints’ improbable run to the NFC Championship game in their first full season back in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina forced the franchise to relocate to San Antonio in 2005.
He’s also ready to have McAllister back on the field, giving New Orleans a pair of back with something to prove. Bush hopes McAllister’s MRI on his left knee, set for Saturday, reveals little damage and the veteran back can get back on the practice field.
“Deuce is a tough guy, one of the toughest guys I've ever been around, and he is obviously going to have an edge this year too after his knee surgery and the criticism that has been going around,” Bush said.
Bush is also happy New Orleans acquired Jeremy Shockey after a trade with the Giants.
“You could always use help, you can always use a guy like Shockey, a guy who is going to perform and give you that edge to your offense. You need guys like that on your team and I definitely think it's going to help us out a lot,” Bush said.
SUNDAY’S REPORT: The Saints had a 90-minute walkthrough on Sunday morning, and many of the team’s top players sat out the workout, including TE Jeremy Shockey and RB Deuce McAllister.
Saintsinsider.com’s Matthew Postins asked giantsinsider.com’s Ken Palmer to give his assessment of New Orleans Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey. Palmer’s views on Shockey’s talent, locker room mentality and dealings with the media shed more light on the player the Saints dealt two draft picks for on Monday. Get the exclusive right here.