Bush expects to eventually return punts, but not just yet

Published 7:27 pm Friday, August 18, 2006

Reggie Bush has yet to get a chance to show his blazing speed and jaw-dropping agility on a punt return in the NFL, but he suspects it’s only a matter of time.

“Yeah, I do,” Bush said. “This is preseason. This is a chance for learning. I’m pretty sure they don’t want to overwhelm me right now. Just kind of break me in slowly but surely.”

Last year at Southern California, Bush fielded 18 punts, averaging 9.9 yards per return, including one return for 84 yards and a touchdown.

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Coach Sean Payton, while often sending Bush back to field punts in practice, is wary of exposing him unnecessarily to injury by having him return many kicks in the preseason.

Depending on whether Michael Lewis is healthy enough to make the final roster when training camp ends, the Saints could have several options for kick returns, including Donte Stallworth, Devery Henderson and Jamal Jones, a receiver who was signed as a free agent last May and has impressed coaches as he tries to make the team. “I’m going to get a chance to return some punts, so it’s just a process,” Bush said. “We’re taking it step by step. It’ll be up to (Payton) and we’ll see what happens.”

BROWN’S BLOCKING: After practice Thursday evening, offensive line coach Doug Marrone took Jammal Brown, Jahri Evans and Zach Strief aside for a little extra work.

“Strief and Evans, you know, they’re rookies, so I kind of feel like a rookie all over again,” Brown said. “In a way, actually, I am — new position, new coaching staff.”

Brown, the Saints’ first-round draft choice in 2005, started at right tackle last season. After Wayne Gandy was traded to Atlanta in the offseason, Brown was moved over to the left side, considered more difficult because most quarterbacks are right handed, meaning they can’t see the rush coming as well from that side.

“Playing the left side, you know, it’s the quarterback’s blind side. There’s just different things you have to do,” Brown said. “You’ve got to get on them quicker, you’ve got to have really good feet, use your hands and things like that, so it’s different from playing the right side — different body posture, things like that.”

Brown’s debut at the position last Saturday night at Tennessee could have gone better as he allowed a sack.

Yet Payton said coaches cannot at this point envision moving Brown back to right tackle.

INJURIES: While Adrian McPherson was was sent to New Orleans to be re-examined for his bruised knee, several other players were kept out of practice and limited to conditioning work beside the field. They were: guard Jermane Mayberry (shoulder), linebacker Tommy Polley (shoulder), running back Aaron Stecker (ankle), defensive lineman Rodney Leslie (knee), kick return specialist Michael Lewis (knee) and cornerback Grant Mason (ankle).

CART ACCIDENT: The NFL has decided against sanctioning the Tennessee Titans after their raccoon-costumed mascot ran into and injured McPherson.