Bush hopes to return as Saints come off bye

Elusive as Reggie Bush can be on a football field, he is also

proving tough to pin down on whether he’ll be ready to play against

Seattle on Sunday.

The dynamic running back of the Saints (6-3) and punt returner

was limited in practice on Wednesday. He’s been sidelined since

breaking a bone in his lower right leg in Week 2.

Bush says a decision on whether he could return against the

Seahawks (5-4) would be made by the team at the end of the

week.

”We’ll see what happens. I feel like this is a good weekend to

get out there,” he said.

He said ultimately it is not just his decision because he’s

never had an injury like this before.

”It’s me. It’s the coaches. It’s the trainers and the doctors.

If we feel like collectively I can get back out there and play this

weekend, I’ll get back out there,” he said. ”If it were up to me,

I would have been playing.”

Bush also was limited in practice late in Week 9 and traveled

for a road game in Carolina, going through a pre-game workout

before he was ruled out for his seventh missed game of the

season.

”I felt like I could have played at that point,” Bush said.

”Again, it’s not just my decision. It’s a collective decision and

a collective effort.”

Last week, while many of the Saints left town for a short

vacation during the bye week, Bush stayed in New Orleans and

continued his rehabilitation and sounded optimistic that he would

be back against Seattle and his old college coach at Southern

California, Pete Carroll.

Saints coach Sean Payton often tries to keep opponents guessing

about the status of key players, and in Bush’s case, that’s been

going on for several weeks.

”He moved around pretty well and got some good work. We just

keep plugging ahead and increasing the workload,” the coach said

when asked if Bush’s return was likely this week. ”Each week he

has gotten better and … there haven’t been any setbacks, so

naturally he’s better today than he was a week ago or two weeks

ago.”

The Saints opened the season 2-0 with Bush in the lineup and are

4-3 since, although it’s not clear how much Bush’s absence hurt the

offense from week to week. The Saints have had their three most

lopsided victories – double-digit wins over Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh

and Carolina – without Bush.

Still, his return would give the Saints more options. Bush has

been effective as a runner, receiver and punt returner.

”There are many ways we can get Reggie the ball,” quarterback

Drew Brees stressed after Wednesday’s practice. ”Anytime you can

just give him the ball in space, he’s a matchup problem for

everybody, because there’s not really a guy who can cover him in a

short area because of his quickness and athletic ability.”

It appears that the Saints are getting healthier as they get a

stretch of the schedule that very well could decide how viable a

threat they are to defend their Super Bowl title.

New Orleans trails NFC South Division rival Atlanta (7-2) by

only a game for the top seed in the NFC.

The only players who didn’t suit up for Wednesday’s practice

were safety Darren Sharper with a sore hamstring and tight end

Jeremy Shockey with bruised ribs. Running back Pierre Thomas was

back in shoulder pads and helmet, but has rested his left ankle

during 11-on-11 drills.

Still the fact that Thomas, the Saints’ leading rusher last

season, was not in a walking boot or crutches as he was two weeks

ago was a sign of progress.

”With him, I really just want to go day-to-day here this week

and just see how he continues to move,” Payton said.

Reserve cornerback Patrick Robinson, who is coming back from a

sprained right ankle, was the only other player to miss team

drills.

”We haven’t played as well in the first half of the season as

we wanted to at times but I feel like we are starting to hit our

stride,” Brees said. ”I feel like we’re getting a lot of guys

healthy and this is when you want to be playing your best

football.”