Some suggestions for Reggie Bush to consider during his down time

Posted by Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune December 19, 2008 10:41PM

Reggie Bush has some down time now, as he will miss the Saints’ final two games this season with a knee injury.

Now that you have some unexpected down time, here are some things to consider while you’re mending your left knee in southern California with Kim.

I’m one of the confederacy of dunces that gathers around your locker each week to assault you with mind-numbing repetitive questions about life, love and football.

The last thing you probably need right now is more advice. Heaven knows your ears are bent daily by folks who think they have your best interests at heart — doctors, agents, coaches, teammates, girlfriends, family members.

But just in case, here it is anyway. It’s the truth. The talk, unlike your runs, is straight.

First and foremost, relax.

From the minute you arrived in the NFL, you’ve run around, to borrow a phrase from Hokie Gajan, “like a sprayed roach.”

You hit the ground running with endorsements and guest appearances and TV ads and charity drives, and you’ve never stopped.

Slow down, take a deep breath and assess your situation.

You might not know it, but your career is entering a crossroads. Next season will be your fourth NFL season, and you haven’t exactly set the world on fire these first three seasons. You haven’t been a bust. Then again, the bust in Canton isn’t being poured either.

The next 12 months of your life could define your future and determine your legacy.

I know you were upset about the way your third NFL season ended, how, for the second time in three games, Sean Payton banished you to the sideline while your teammates fought the good fight out on the field. You looked as mad as a hornet as you sat alone on the frigid sideline at Soldier Field.

Don’t sulk. Don’t complain. Learn from the experience. Payton made the right decision. It might not seem like it now, but the experience will pay off down the road — if you respond the right way.

Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to what the best player on your team, Drew Brees, had to say this week.

Brees raved about your competitiveness and drive. He relates to your frustration with injuries. And he empathizes with your struggles to live up to expectations that he says “have been higher for (you) than any guy maybe in the history of the league.”

He knows how much you want to be “the guy.” But he’s quick to add that, “this team isn’t about one guy. It’s about a group of guys working together.”

His advice to you: “Forget what people think, media or otherwise, and just worry about getting better every day and worry about what you need to do to help this team win.”

Translation: Get healthy and get your act together. Forget about everything else, such as the things that don’t matter, like your image, your legacy, your sponsorship portfolio.

Put that stuff on the back burner. The only endorsements you should covet are those of your coaches and teammates.

Listen to them. They care about you and want you to succeed.

Listen to backfield-mate Pierre Thomas when he says that players in the locker room can’t relate to the lifestyle you live, and many don’t want to. This is the life you have chosen. There are no guardrails in life’s fast lane.

“Honestly, if I was in that situation, I don’t know if I could handle it, so much is getting thrown at you, ” Thomas said Wednesday. “His name is like Times Square, lit up: Reggie Bush! It’s tough when everybody is looking at you to be that guy every day.

“People are still looking up to him, expecting him to do things he did in college. And this is not college. This is the pros. It’s different. That’s a lot of pressure to put on somebody. It’s a big pill to swallow, but you’ve got to take it on. The route he took (in life), that’s what it has created. He’s got to deal with it. Somehow he’s got to learn how to deal with it.”

The first step is admittance.

So let’s start there: You’re not going to be the next Gale Sayers.

That’s OK. Few are. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a very, very good NFL player, even a Pro Bowler.

But you won’t get there if you keep trying too hard to be something that you’re not.

Stop trying to be the next Barry Sanders.

Stop trying to be the next anybody for that matter.

Stop trying to be better than Mario Williams.

Stop worrying about keeping up with Chris Paul.

And forget the Reggie Bush from Southern Cal. That guy’s gone. Those days are over. The Heisman Trophy won’t help you now. Ask Matt Leinart.

There aren’t any Fresno States in the NFC South. You’re not going to rack up 513 all-purpose yards in a game, like you did against the befuddled Bulldogs on that magical night three years ago. So stop trying to do it in the NFL.

Stop trying to score a touchdown, make “SportsCenter” highlights and save post-Katrina New Orleans on every play.

Stop running backward on punt returns and sideways on toss sweeps. Find a hole, put that gold Adidas cleat in the ground and follow your blocks.

Learn to love the 4-yard gain. It won’t sell video games, but it will help win football games.

Remember the end and the means it takes to get there.

Forget everything else.

But remember the Grossmont La Mesa Mitey Mites.

Remember what it was like when you started out in Pop Warner as a diminutive 9-year-old in suburban San Diego? You didn’t worry about girls or agents or sponsors or legacies. You just played ball. You worried about the game, the next play, the kid in front of you and not much else. When you were a boy, you didn’t worry about being The Man. And you eventually became Him.

That’s how it works.

So stop trying to be “the guy” and just be one of ’em.

Life, and your NFL career, will be better once you do.

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