Free advice for Bush: Tell the truth

BY Alex Marvez • September 8, 2010

Reggie Bush needs to stop running.

Not on the field, of course. He should keep doing the things that have led to a solid and occasionally spectacular NFL career in New Orleans. Just one change is required:

Stop running from the truth. Admit your college mistakes and return the Heisman Trophy already.

This will probably be demanded anyway. Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday that the Heisman Trust is expected to strip the award by month’s end. The Heisman hierarchy issued a denial, but there’s little reason to believe the news isn’t accurate based upon Yahoo’s prior spot-on reporting of the athletic scandal at Southern California.

The NCAA has declared Bush was ineligible to play in 2005 after being found guilty of major rules violations. That would automatically disqualify him from Heisman contention.

USC announced plans to give back its replica trophy in July. It’s long past time for Bush to follow suit.

Bush, though, is still living in denial. Surrounded by reporters in front of his locker Wednesday at Saints headquarters, Bush didn’t shed any new light on the Heisman situation.

“I think at this point it’s kind of out of my hands,” said Bush, still dressed in the black and gold No. 25 jersey he wore to practice. “Whatever you guys report, you have to go with that. But if I’m not mistaken, I believe the Heisman Trust released a statement saying that whatever was said yesterday was inaccurate. That’s where it’s at.”

The only emotion Bush displayed was when he later took another veiled swipe at the media. He alluded to the timing of Yahoo’s report as if there were a conspiracy to harm him and the Saints entering Thursday night’s season-opening matchup against Minnesota.

“As if this game didn’t have enough distractions with it,” Bush said with a chuckle.

Mind you, this “distraction” is self-inflicted. Bush could come clean about what happened and move on. The media, would, too.

He instead continues to plead the fifth. Yahoo! reported that he met with Heisman officials last month in New York City. Bush said he couldn’t “confirm or deny” that happened.

Actually, there is nothing to my knowledge that would prevent Bush from doing so. Just like during the NCAA investigation, he has simply chosen not to be forthcoming.

Asked whether he would return the Heisman if asked, Bush said, “I’m not even thinking about that. I haven’t even gone that far. Here we are the day before the biggest game of the new season. That’s where my focus is.

“I’ve said all that I want to say. Everything else has to play itself out. It’s an unfortunate situation for everybody, including the kids at USC.”

No kidding.

I’m not saying that relinquishing one of the greatest individual honors in sports is easy. If it was and the Heisman didn’t matter to him, Bush would have done so already. Bush was brilliant during his junior season. He should be proud of his personal accomplishments that helped lead USC into the national championship game against Texas.

He also should be ashamed of accepting money and gifts (along with his family) while still in college.

Bush’s actions haven’t just tarnished his reputation and led to his name being erased from the USC record book. The Trojans were hit with a two-year postseason bowl ban and loss of 30 scholarships for lack of institutional control.

The Saints and NFL are also being affected by the fallout.

This is a week of celebration for both in New Orleans. The Saints begin their quest to repeat as Super Bowl champion in a rematch of last season’s epic NFC championship game. There will be a pregame Mardi Gras-style parade outside the Louisiana Superdome and unveiling of the franchise’s first Super Bowl banner inside it. Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey feels so good that he sent a Twitter message on Tuesday plugging a postgame party.

First lady Michelle Obama appeared with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday to announce a partnership aimed at eliminating adolescent obesity. There are concerts, appearances by retired players and the usual hoopla associated with a big NFL event.

Yet the Heisman scandal still dominated Tuesday’s pregame headlines. It also has drawn attention away from the stellar offseason Bush has enjoyed – even with Kim Kardashian no longer on his arm.

The knee problems that limited Bush’s playing time in 2009 are gone. His nimbleness was reaffirmed on a nifty two-yard touchdown scamper in the preseason opener against New England. Bush finished the preseason with a gaudy 5.5-yard rushing average on 13 carries and caught seven passes for 70 yards two weeks ago against San Diego.

Saints head coach Sean Payton said Bush provides “position flexibility” at running back because of his diverse skill set. That means an offensive wizard like Payton doesn’t have to bend over backward to get Bush involved in the game plan.

“He’s had one of the better camps we’ve seen,” Payton said.

Bush would have made it even better by addressing the Heisman mess before training camp opened. Bush should understand that abdicating won’t erase the memories of what he accomplished at USC. Doing so voluntarily – especially when revocation seems inevitable – will allow Bush to save as much face as possible under the circumstances. Plus, it will eliminate the lingering distraction that doesn’t help Bush or his teammates defend the only trophy that matters now.

The Lombardi Trophy.

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