In his third year, Saints' Bush staying focused

DENVER -- Since Reggie Bush has been in the tabloids for his off-field pursuits as much as in the sports pages for his football exploits, we started there.

How is it going with girlfriend Kim Kardashian?

"Great," he said. "Great girl. Great friend."

Is marriage to her in the plans?

"Yes," he replied.

When?

"Don't know. But it's coming."

Children?

"Definitely. Absolutely. I look forward to being a father."

And the seemingly endless stream of commercials and endorsements?

"I am a person, a human being, and there is not one who would not take advantage of business opportunities," he said. "If I didn't, I would be wrong. But I know that football comes first. That's what makes it all possible."

This was after Bush had done all he could to make the difference in the Saints' 34-32 loss to the Broncos on Sunday at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. He scored on a natty 23-yard run. He scored on a clever 6-yard pass. He gained 178 all-purpose yards. And though he lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, he was the key spark in the Saints' 502 yards of offense and big-play scoring.

"It was the Reggie Bush festival," Broncos safety Reggie Marlon McCree said. "He looked good. He made us look bad."

Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey added: "I'm tired. Tired of chasing Reggie Bush. He's quick. He's fast. He's something."

Debate rages on exactly what Bush is to the Saints.

Is he an every-down back? Can he take the physical pounding required to be one? Is he too much of a recluse, an off-shoot in the locker room? Is his heart really in it?

Such is the lot of this Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 overall pick of the 2006 draft. He makes you take a look. And then an extra one. He makes plays few can.

In essence, he is simply a football player. A play-making one.

"Anytime he touches the ball, he can go the distance," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said with admiration. "He has the ability to give you what you need on the outside. What does he weigh, 180 pounds? That's not good for an inside runner, to take those kind of shots inside. But they do the right thing: Just get the ball in his hands on the edge and let him work. They get him outside where he can isolate and make people miss."

The Saints list Bush as 203 pounds.

And Saints coach Sean Payton says Bush packs enough punch.

"Reggie was outstanding today," Payton said. "We get that kind of performance from him the rest of the way and we'll be good."

Bush reminds everyone he is a team player. He runs the plays called, he says. He spent more offseason time this year in New Orleans than in his initial year. He is working harder, he says.

"I think I am a lot better player than in my first two seasons," Bush said. "Hard work is paying off. We did a lot of things right today but things didn't happen right at the end. We used a balanced attack on them. We definitely exposed that defense. We showed heart and fight, not enough, but a lot of it. It hurts.

"People are going to say about me what they are going to say. But I know who I am. I'm a fighter. I'm a winner. I look at Vince Young's current situation and I realize how things can be. That guy is in a tough situation, yet he is a great player. He has to keep his confidence up and realize that hard work pays off. His situation is a great example for all young players. Keep your head up, keep doing what you do and keep being the player you have been all along."

Bush deserves credit for that. With all of the frenzy flying around him, he can shine like he did on Sunday and maintain focus on what is ahead.

That would be San Francisco, Minnesota and Oakland in successive home games for the 1-2 Saints.

Payton said recently that the NFL each week is "either carnival or crisis" with little in-between. That has been the Reggie Bush experience. He can be even more effective once the Saints injured offensive weapons return, including running back Deuce McAllister and receiver Marques Colston.

For now, Bush is holding his own. And more.

"I have to fight a lot of outside things and one of the ways to do that is to stay out of trouble," Bush said. "Don't give people anything more to talk about. And that's what I'm trying to do, just leave the talk on the field with my play. I'm a winner. I was raised to be a warrior. And that's just what I am."

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