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Decision on Saints RB Bush won't be his alone

METAIRIE, La. -- Elusive as Reggie Bush can be on a football field, he also is proving tough to pin down on whether he will be ready to play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

The New Orleans Saints' dynamic running back and punt returner was limited in practice Wednesday. He's been sidelined since breaking a bone in his lower right leg in Week 2.

Bush said a decision on whether he could return against the Seahawks would be made by the team at the end of the week.

"We'll see what happens," he said. "I feel like this is a good weekend to out there."

He said it is not just his decision because he's never had an injury like this before.

"It's me. It's the coaches. It's the trainers and the doctors," he said. "If we feel like, collectively, I can get back out there and play this weekend, I'll get back out there. If it were up to me, I would have been playing."

Bush also was limited in practice late in Week 9 and traveled for a game in Carolina, going through a pregame workout before he was ruled out for his seventh missed game of the season.

"I felt like I could have played at that point," Bush said. "Again, it's not just my decision. It's a collective decision and a collective effort."

Last week, after many of the Saints left town for a short vacation during the bye week, Bush stayed in New Orleans and continued his rehabilitation. He sounded optimistic that he would be back against the Seahawks and his old college coach at USC, Pete Carroll.

Saints coach Sean Payton often tries to keep opponents guessing about the status of key players, and in Bush's case, that's been going on for several weeks.

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"He moved around pretty well and got some good work. We just keep plugging ahead and increasing the workload," the coach said when asked if Bush's return was likely this week. "Each week he has gotten better and ... there haven't been any setbacks, so, naturally, he's better today than he was a week ago or two weeks ago."

The Saints opened the season 2-0 with Bush in the lineup and are 4-3 since, although it's not clear how much Bush's absence hurt the offense from week to week. The Saints have had their three most lopsided victories -- double-digit wins over Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Carolina -- without Bush.

His return would give the Saints more options. Bush has been effective as a runner, receiver and punt returner.

"There are many ways we can get Reggie the ball," quarterback Drew Brees said after Wednesday's practice. "Anytime you can just give him the ball in space, he's a matchup problem for everybody, because there's not really a guy who can cover him in a short area because of his quickness and athletic ability."

It appears that the Saints are getting healthier as they get a stretch of the schedule that could determine how viable a threat they are to defend their Super Bowl title.

New Orleans trails NFC South Division rival Atlanta (7-2) by one game for the top seed in the NFC.

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The only players who didn't suit up for Wednesday's practice were safety Darren Sharper, who has a sore hamstring, and tight end Jeremy Shockey, who has bruised ribs. Running back Pierre Thomas was back in shoulder pads and helmet, but he rested his left ankle during 11-on-11 drills.

That Thomas, the Saints' leading rusher last season, was not in a walking boot or crutches as he was two weeks ago was a sign of progress.

"With him, I really just want to go day-to-day here this week and just see how he continues to move," Payton said.

Reserve cornerback Patrick Robinson, who is coming back from a sprained right ankle, was the only other player to miss team drills.

"We haven't played as well in the first half of the season as we wanted to at times, but I feel like we are starting to hit our stride," Brees said. "I feel like we're getting a lot of guys healthy and this is when you want to be playing your best football."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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