Bush says he will play Sunday against the Buccaneers

METAIRIE, La. -- Reggie Bush said he's ready to play and that he really means it this time.

"I'm definitely a go this week," Bush said after Wednesday's practice, even though he did not participate fully. "I know I said that last week, but it's definitely a go this week. ... I felt great. It's the best it's felt."

Bush hasn't played since tearing the meniscus in his left knee on Oct. 19 during a loss at Carolina. Because the Saints had a bye since Bush had arthroscopic surgery, he's missed only four games during what so far has been a five-week recovery. The Saints (6-5) play Tampa Bay (8-3) on Sunday.

Bush practiced intermittently in the days leading up to the Saints' victories over Kansas City on Nov. 16 and Green Bay on Monday. Each week, he said he thought he'd play, but ended up being scratched from the lineup.

"I didn't feel like I could be myself out there and I didn't want to hurt the team like that," Bush said. "If I'm not able to be me and be 100 percent than I'd be hurting the team."

Now in his third year, Bush missed the past four games of last season with a partially torn knee ligament. This season's absence brings his total of missed games to eight in the past two seasons.

"These last two years have been tough just from trying to fight this injury bug and obviously I don't want to be known as the guy who's always injured," Bush said. "It's tough. It's a physical sport and this is what we go through."

Bush said he's been waiting during his current recovery to feel like he can have the bursts of speed, balance and sudden cutting ability that has made him a constant big play threat since he entered the league.

"Really what I base it on is, does my leg feel good? Am I able to run full speed? Am I able to cut without any pain? That's it," Bush said. "Like I said, I feel 100 percent. I'm ready to go this week. ... I'm doing it all, punts and everything."

The Saints have gone 3-1 in their past four games without Bush, who still ranks second on the team in receptions with 42 despite his absence. Bush has scored eight touchdowns this season, three on punt returns, three on receptions and two on runs.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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