New Orleans Saints tailback Reggie Bush downplays significance of procedure

Posted by Mike Triplett, The Times-Picayune January 08, 2009 11:22PM

Saints tailback Reggie Bush said he was surprised to see how much of a stir was created by the news of his recent knee surgery.

Both he and Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis insisted the surgery was less serious than perceived because of the negative connotation associated with the term “microfracture.”
Bush said he was off crutches less than two weeks after he had the arthroscopic procedure performed in mid-December, and he already is working out.

“I feel like I’m right on track,” said Bush, who expects to fully participate in the team’s offseason training program, beginning in mid-March.

Bush said the surgical procedure, performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., was a chondroplasty, which is a cartilage repair. Bush and his agent, Joel Segal, described it as a “clean-up” procedure to smooth out some cartilage.

Although some microfracture techniques were used, it wasn’t a full-blown microfracture surgery, which is typically used to cure exposed bone. Bush said there was no exposed bone in his knee.

Loomis this week first described the surgery in vague terms, labeling it as a microfracture procedure but stressing that it wasn’t the most serious type of microfracture.

“I wouldn’t want to call it minor, because he’s got a pretty significant period of rehab time,” Loomis said earlier this week. “But at the end of it, he shouldn’t have any issues.”

However, Bush said he is taking seriously his recent rash of injuries to his left knee, and he plans to do whatever it takes this offseason to prevent future setbacks.

Over the past 14 months, Bush has suffered four separate injuries to his left knee — each one of them minor. But together, the trend is unsettling.

“I think it has been unfortunate mishaps these last few years, but it’s definitely something I can’t ignore,” said Bush, who has missed 10 of the Saints’ past 20 games, dating back to December 2007. “I need to focus on strengthening my knee to the point where it doesn’t happen again. I’ll work with the doctors, trainers and weight staff, doing everything possible to get ready for this season.

“This is my job, this is what I love to do, so it’s frustrating. It’s nobody’s fault, but I won’t allow it to happen a third time. Two times is enough. I’ll do everything possible to make sure I’m 110 percent. I’ll push my butt more this year than I ever have, because of the injuries, and because I owe it to the city, I owe it to the team. I don’t feel like I’ve lived up to the expectations that I have in my own mind.”

Bush first tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in December 2007. He missed the final four games of the season, but the injury healed soon afterward without surgery.

Then he began experiencing swelling and soreness in the knee during training camp this past summer — a condition described as a “bone bruise,” which was aggravated by a hard hit against Tampa Bay in Week 1. He later suffered a torn meniscus at Carolina in Week 7, which required arthroscopic surgery and sidelined him for four games. Finally, he suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in Week 15 at Chicago, which landed him on injured reserve for the final two weeks of the year.

“The toughest thing for me is that I’ve never been injured before, where I’ve had to miss games, until the last two years,” said Bush, who turns 24 in March. “I’ve always prided myself on being a durable back, being a durable player. I honestly believe it’s just been two minor procedures, and thank God it hasn’t been anything major. Up to this point, I’ve always felt it’s something I can get past as long as I rehab properly.”

Bush’s durability always has been something of a question mark, simply because of his build. At 6 feet, 203 pounds, he’s built more for speed and elusiveness than for the every-down pounding of a prototypical tailback.

He also puts a good deal of stress on his knees because of the quick, sharp cuts he makes in the open field, both on offense and as a punt returner.

But so far, he has shown an ability to bounce back from each of the previous knee injuries. He was playing at perhaps the highest level of his career through the first seven weeks of this past season, leading the Saints with 660 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns.

He was consistently rattling off breakaway runs and receptions of 20-plus yards, and he returned three punts for touchdowns — one at Washington in Week 2 and two against Minnesota in Week 5. He was well on his way to All-Pro status as a return specialist and likely would have made his first trip to the Pro Bowl as a return man if he hadn’t been injured.

Both Loomis and Coach Sean Payton have expressed their high hopes for Bush in the past two weeks, saying they expect him to continue to be a featured attraction in the Saints’ top-ranked offense.

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