New Orleans Saints  

 

Saints RB Bush unable to practice on leg, likely out Sunday

New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush remains sidelined with a right leg injury, and it's highly unlikely that he will return this week, a league source said Wednesday.

Bush wasn't able to practice Wednesday, and a team source said no final determination has been made on the running back's status for Sunday night's showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, it doesn't look promising.

When the Saints took the practice field Wednesday, Bush worked out on a step-climbing machine and a stationary bike behind one of the end zones. That wasn't quite what he had in mind when he spoke Monday about testing his leg in practice at full speed.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Bush did some running on his own the past two days. But the coach didn't hint at whether or not the versatile runner, receiver and punt returner would be back on the field for Sunday night's home game.

"We just keep taking it day to day and monitoring the progress, monitoring the next day after the workout and kind of go from there," Payton said.

The Saints (4-3) say they don't like to use injuries as an excuse for sagging performance, but there's no question that a number of key players have missed action while New Orleans has lost three of its last five games.

Since Bush broke his fibula during a Week 2 victory at San Francisco, injuries also have afflicted running back Pierre Thomas, starting linebacker Scott Shanle, starting cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer, starting strong safety Roman Harper, starting defensive end Will Smith and others.

"The disappointing part is you haven't seen the complete team since Week 2 when Reggie went down," Shanle said. "It absolutely has an effect. I mean, we do a good job of having guys who are backups come in and play good football, but there's a reason why Reggie Bush is Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas has done what he's done."

In the same game that Bush went down, nickel back Randall Gay was concussed and, following a brief comeback, went on season-ending injured reserve.

Thomas, last year's leading rusher and a productive outlet for quarterback Drew Brees on screen passes, sprained his ankle in Week 3.

Harper missed a Week 4 contest against the Carolina Panthers with a hamstring pull. Porter, who also went down in Week 4, needed arthroscopic surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in his left knee and hasn't played since. Smith strained his groin in Week 4 and missed the next game.

Shanle pulled a hamstring in practice in Week 6 and has missed the past two games. Greer left the Week 6 game at Tampa Bay with a left shoulder injury and has yet to return.

Now there are signs that the Saints are on the mend.

All-Pro safety Darren Sharper, who opened the season on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from offseason knee surgery, finally came back last weekend to a defensive backfield that played without its top three cornerbacks.

Thomas, who has been absent during recent practices, was on the field in a jersey, participating in the team stretch and doing some light jogging.

Shanle returned to practice on a limited basis. While Porter and Greer weren't officially listed on the Saints' injury report as having practiced, both attended and did some light individual work.

"The progress with both Jabari and Tracy has been significant and positive and on schedule," Payton said.

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Bush, Thomas and Porter weren't available to speak with reporters after practice. Greer said he was "optimistic" about returning this Sunday, as was Shanle.

Brees said the Saints believe their best football is still to come, adding that the rash of early season injuries could pay off in the long run.

"We faced this last year, but just later on in the season," Brees said, referring to the Super Bowl champs' three-game skid just before the playoffs. "Obviously we're facing it much earlier now.

"Are we more injured than other teams? Probably most of them," Brees continued. "It's allowed an opportunity for some young guys to step up and play pretty well. I think that will serve us well down the road, once we get everybody back."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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