Lions' Bush on ex-team Saints: It's just business

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees fondly recall their time with Lions running back Reggie Bush.

During his five seasons in New Orleans, Bush experienced varied success, starting with a gangbusters rookie season in which he had 1,307 yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns. Bush also won a Super Bowl with the Saints in 2009.

But Bush learned how untouchable most NFL players are in 2011 when the Saints drafted Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram and trade him three months later to the Miami Dolphins.

After two years in Miami, Bush signed with the Lions in 2013, and Sunday will be the first time he faces the team who gave him his first job in the NFL.

"I'm going to treat it like it's another game," he said. "I'm not going to try to make it more than that because we still have a job to do and I don't want to get caught trying to do too much.

"Learning from experience in the past, when I've tried to do too much, it never really works out the way you want it to, and you end up making a few mistakes."

Like many people, Bush learned the Houston Texans were taking defensive end Mario Williams first overall in 2006 on "SportsCenter," but the Saints selected him with the next pick.

"That was my first real introduction to the business side of football," Bush said Friday.

Experiencing the disappointment of not going first overall at age 21 helped prepare Bush to handle the trade that followed five years later.

"I don't have any bitterness toward the team or anybody, he said. "It's part of the business. It's the business side of our sport. Sometimes it can be ugly, but at the end of the day, we all sign on the dotted line. We understand how it works."

The Lions will rely heavily on Bush and fellow running back Joique Bell on Sunday — who was briefly with the Saints in 2010 and 2011 — with wide receiver Calvin Johnson and tight end Eric Ebron likely out.

Bush will serve as one of the Lions' three captains Sunday, but doesn't expect the coin toss to be extra emotional.

"If it was in New Orleans, then I think it would be a little bit different," he said.

Sunday's game will also bring back memories for Payton, who said Bush looks like a "very similar player" now to what he was in New Orleans.

"I think it was very significant for our organization at that time," Payton said of drafting Bush, who arrived in New Orleans a year after Hurricane Katrina. Bush admits he was nervous to go to the downtrodden city after spending his entire life in California.

Brees, Bush and Payton all joined the Saints in 2006, and they went 10-6 and earned the No. 2 seed, eventually falling to the Chicago Bears in the NFC championship game.

"It was pure excitement, I think mainly because nobody thought that was even an option," Brees said of drafting Bush. "I think everybody assumed that the Texans would be taking him with the first pick and it was almost a done deal and then all of the sudden, I remember the night before the draft, Coach (Sean) Payton is calling me saying, 'Hey, I think we're going to get this guy.'"

Bush likely will talk to Saints running back Pierre Thomas, one of a few New Orleans friends who attended his wedding this summer, among other former teammates. It could also be the first time he speaks to Payton, who called him to tell him of the trade in 2011.

Although the first matchup against the Saints could be emotional for Bush, his overall experience was good, which should make it easier to stay focused Sunday.

"I wouldn't take anything back because I think the five years I was there we were able to make history," he said. "We were part of the first and only team to win a Super Bowl in New Orleans, and that's something that's special."