METAIRIE, La. -- Reggie Bush never sweated more. He wasn't eluding tacklers. He was eluding admission.
You couldn't help but watch the perspiration form on his forehead and trickling up and down his cheeks Richard Nixon-style.
|To Reggie Bush, this entire situation is 'the closest thing to death without dying.' (US Presswire)|
When asked point blank by CBSSports.com if he had ever broken any NCAA rules while he was at USC following the New Orleans Saints' final organized team activity, Bush replied, "It's hard for ... I can't get into specifics of what's going on. Like I said I'd love to. I could sit here for days and get into specifics of what's going on. But obviously I can't."
You know what they say about non-denials.
Earlier in the 11-minute press conference, Bush was asked if he disputed any of the NCAA's findings or if he felt like the facts were incorrect.
"I believe that there's a lot of untold truth to this matter," Bush said. "There's a lot of fabricated lies in this matter. But it is what it is. I can't sit here and cry about it. I can't sit here and make up excuses. Ultimately it's the responsibility that's placed on USC's shoulders and my shoulders that it's because of me. All I can do is continue to try to help them and move forward with the situation."
There's no doubt that he feels remorse, even if he's not ready to admit he ever did anything wrong. He understands the full ramifications of his actions.
"For the people who say ... well I've heard people say that I don't really care about this too much and I just brush it off my shoulders. Those people don't know me," Bush said. "Because this thing regarding USC and the NCAA is to me the closest thing to death without dying ... It sucks because like I said I have such a strong love and passion for USC. It's almost like shaming your dad in a sense."
He still called USC his family, in particular his teammates from the 2004 BCS title team and the 2005 BCS runners-up who helped propel him to the Heisman Trophy. (On a side note, Bush said he doesn't fear that the Heisman will be stripped away from him.) He said teammates have been sending him text messages of support. USC and Saints teammate defensive end Sedrick Ellis threw public support toward Bush earlier this week.
"I don't have a fear of anything else occurring that you guys are thinking of," Bush said.
The problem for him is that the school likely will never want any part of him. At this point O.J. Simpson may be more welcome at USC than Bush. He said he hasn't talked to former USC coach Pete Carroll, who wound up bolting glitzy Los Angeles to a mess of an NFL team in Seattle.
"Obviously with the current penalty, it sucks because they now have to deal with that," Bush said. "You never want to be in the position that you've affected a kid's career or the future of a high school player that would go to USC. You've affected their career some way in some shape or form. That's not a good feeling.
"I'm going to do everything I can to make this right, some way, somehow, if it's the last thing I do," Bush said.
Then there was Mike Ornstein meandering around reporters and poking his ear in the huddle to listen to every word Bush had to say. He even tried to push a member of the Saints public relations staff to step in and end the press conference.
Who's Ornstein, you ask?
He's the marketer who won the Bush sweepstakes coming out of USC. He's the one who didn't sue Bush. He's the one who didn't blow the whistle. He's the one who wanted Bush to settle quietly with Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels.
"I really have nothing to say on the matter," Ornstein told CBSSports.com minutes after Bush addressed the media.
Ornstein has been a curious dynamic floating around the Saints since Bush and Ornstein parted ways during the 2007 season.
The part where Ornstein never went away is what's so bizarre.
He's become a go-to kind of consultant for the Saints since Bush fired him. Rarely was there a time when Ornstein wasn't lurking around the Saints while employed by Bush or after the two parted ways.
And with the Saints winning Super Bowl XLIV, there's money to be made. A small example is how Ornstein helped facilitate Saints coach Sean Payton's book deal and is spearheading all the marketing for the book's upcoming release. He passed out the books Wednesday at a press conference and even asked Payton a question as if he were a reporter on how much of the book's profits will go to charity.
Bush's losses are at the reputation counter only. Saints fans, for the most part, love Bush. Ornstein made bags of money off Bush in endorsements and is now receiving some sort of compensation from the Super Bowl champs.
The fact is that Bush and Ornstein, though not connected by the hip anymore, have moved on and profited. The only thing he left behind as collateral damage was USC.
Bush may claim that all he yearns to do is repair his relationship with USC. The No. 1 thing he needs to do is publicly admit his guilt. Everyone knows he's guilty. He knows he's guilty. Admit it and the moving on process can begin.
Today wasn't enough.