The loss of running back Reggie Bush to a broken right fibula, an injury confirmed to The Sports Xchange on Tuesday by agent Joel Segal and a team official not approved to publicly discuss the injury, likely won’t change the design of the New Orleans Saints’ diverse passing game.
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But it will change the personnel.
"We’re still working on the plan, but Pierre (Thomas) will probably get some more snaps, and we’ll probably change some stuff with our receivers," a Saints coach said. "It will take a little tinkering."
Bush suffered the injury while scrambling to recover a punt he bobbled and fumbled in the Saints’ victory at San Francisco on Monday night. He likely will miss about six weeks while the injury, which will not require surgery, heals and he rehabilitates. It is not known if the Saints, who have three tailbacks on the active roster, will sign a player to replace him. But unless an MRI exam on Tuesday reveals any unanticipated complications in the break, Bush will not be placed on injured reserve.
The Saints host Atlanta on Sunday at the Superdome and the plight of the Falcons’ defense should be made somewhat easier with Bush’s absence.
Atlanta linebacker Mike Peterson conceded that Bush is "a really tough matchup," given his ability in space.
The Falcons, who played close games with New Orleans twice in 2009 — losses by eight and three points — sometimes struggle with pass-catching backs. Peterson, the starting weak-side linebacker, is not particularly strong in coverage situations. Strong-side starter Sean Weatherspoon, chosen in the first round in an effort to add speed and coverage skills at linebacker, has played only two games.
In his six appearances against the Falcons, Bush has not been much of a factor, but his big-play ability, especially as a receiver and punt returner, makes him a persistent threat. Bush has 247 yards and one touchdown on 53 rushes versus the Atlanta defense. He has added 23 receptions for 142 yards and four touchdowns.
As a punt returner, Bush has six runbacks for only 23 yards — less than half his career average — and no touchdowns.
Bush averaged 65 receptions over the first four years of his career. Although his receptions have reduced every year — from a career-best of 88 catches as a rookie in 2006 — the former Southern Cal star was a versatile player who the Saints used out of the backfield and in the slot. In two games this season, Bush had nine receptions. Thomas, who had a career-best 39 catches in 2009 and has averaged 35 receptions over the past two seasons, actually had more catches (11) and yards (72) than Bush this year.
Thomas, though, lacks Bush’s open-field ability.
The Saints are a big screen-pass team and, even minus Bush, that probably will continue to be a major part of their offensive plans. The coach did acknowledge that the absence of Bush would have "some affect" on the club’s personnel packages.