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Saints say they want Bush to stay, but is he already gone?

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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NEW ORLEANS -- Mark Ingram is Reggie Bush, at least from Bush's perspective.

Bush recognizes the pattern as, at least in his mind, he was Ingram five years ago. And Deuce McAllister was the current-day Bush in 2006. But in reality, Bush isn't Ingram at all.

Any questions?

Bush opened up this Rubik's Cube all by himself once he dropped his Twitter bomb after the Saints traded up to take the best running back in the draft. By now you've probably read or heard Bush profess, "It's been fun New Orleans," shortly after the first round wrapped up.

Drew Brees, a veteran of similar situations, is trying to convince Reggie Bush the Saints' move is good for him. (Getty Images)  
Drew Brees, a veteran of similar situations, is trying to convince Reggie Bush the Saints' move is good for him. (Getty Images)  
Bush tried to play damage control by later tweeting, "Congrats to Mark Ingram on being selected to New Orleans. He will be a great addition to the Saints backfield just as he was in Alabama."

Too late.

He made public his complete 180-degree turn from his stance two days following the Saints' mind-numbing loss to Seattle in the NFC playoffs.

"I'm open to whatever," Bush said in January. "I'm open to whatever is going to help me stay here. Obviously, with that said, you have to be fair to yourself. You have to be fair to whatever the market sets. I'm not stupid or dumb. I know that obviously there's going to have to be some type of restructuring going on here."

Drew Brees sympathized with Bush during the Saints players' workout on Tuesday at Tulane. Brees was the 2006 McAllister and 2011 Bush in 2004. Confused again? I know you are. Brees, who saw No. 4 overall pick Philip Rivers come to San Diego and eventually take his job after the 2005 season, said he reached out to Bush after watching Bush's ominous tweet shoot across his Twitter feed.

"I saw his tweet, just like you did, you know, right after," Brees said. "I think that's just frustration a little bit, just because, they draft a guy at your position. ... I immediately texted him just because I knew what was going through his mind. I mean, he's a young guy, he's very prideful and wants to be great. He wants as many opportunities as he can get. I think you immediately see that as, 'Oh, well, that's taking opportunities away from me.'"

This is where Brees' message goes hazy for Bush and his camp.

"But in reality I think, you've got to find the positive in it and that is, no, this doesn't take opportunities away," Brees said as if he were in Bush's shoes. "This kind of solidifies my role and it probably makes things easier on me because it takes a little bit of the weight off my shoulders because this guy can do some things that are really going to help our offense and it's going to open things up for me. So I think in the end it's a very good thing for everybody."

There's only one thing the Bush camp is positive about, and that is there will be less weight on Bush's shoulders. Far less weight. That weight has dead presidents on it as the Saints will likely want Bush to shed about 75 percent of his monetary body fat.

Agent Joel Segal can either be the uniter or divider in the Saints-Bush coin tug-of-war.

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The agent represents Bush and Ingram and can steer talks into one direction or the other. Segal's job is to negotiate the best deal possible for his client, and Segal is one of the best in the business. He has a good working relationship with the Saints already, having brokered previous deals for the likes of Will Smith, Marques Colston, Darren Sharper and Alex Brown. But Segal may need his most fancy footwork to keep Bush and Ingram happy in New Orleans.

Ingram's only deal can occur with the Saints. So Segal likely has some sort of idea of what the going rate for the No. 28 overall pick will be in this NFL economy. Ingram has repeatedly deflected the Bush chatter during several interviews since being drafted last week.

"They have a lot of great backs down there," Ingram said. "I am going to go down there and work my butt off. Anything I can contribute to the team, that's what I am willing to do to win games and help them win championships."

Bush, Segal and the Saints also know the going rate for a former 2005 Heisman Trophy winner isn't $11.8 million in base salary, which would make him the highest paid running back in the LEAGUE.

Bush's production obviously isn't worthy of that kind of money. And injuries to Bush, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory showed how much the Saints craved for another body in the backfield. So Bush's best money could be elsewhere, with Thomas receiving a four-year deal just before the CBA expired and an Ingram contract down the road.

The thing is if training camp starts during its normal time span, Bush and Ingram would be sharing touches as Thomas and Ivory would be slowed by injuries they are currently rehabbing.

That's where I don't understand Bush's logic. Ingram won't replace Bush in the backfield. They're not the same type of player at all. Ingram may replace Bush in the limelight, though, and might eat away at Bush's bank account.

Coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis have already jumped on the spin train. Both have proclaimed how much they want Bush back and how much he means to the Saints. Payton reached out to Bush much like he did in 2006 when Bush was taken No. 2 overall despite the presence of a bell-cow back like McAllister. Loomis raved about how the Saints wouldn't have won a Super Bowl without Bush.

Conversely, Loomis is placing the onus on Bush if the running back balks during renegotiation talks.

"Obviously there's a contract issue that will have to be resolved at some point," Loomis said. "We're not able to do that right now and so when the time comes and we're able to do it, we'll try to get that resolved and if we can, great. Reggie won't be gone because we don't want him. I don't know how to state it any other way."

Loomis and Payton acknowledged last week how much character McAllister displayed when the former Saints Pro Bowl back appeared to be replaceable. Loomis mentioned right after the Ingram selection that the character of the first-ever Alabama Heisman Trophy winner reminded him of McAllister.

Not five minutes later, while Payton was grinning from ear to ear during his post-draft media chat last Thursday night, Bush dropped his "peace out New Orleans" tweet.

Bush may still fit in the Saints' offense. A wallet that fits easier in his pocket just might not allow Bush to fit in the locker room anymore.

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