With New Orleans still in the running for an NFC wild-card playoff berth, Bush said Wednesday that his injured left knee might be healthy enough for him to play again before the Saints pack up for the offseason.
"It's really frustrating because obviously I want to be out there with my teammates and help them get to the playoffs," Bush said after Wednesday's practice, which he sat out. "Every game from here on out is (like) a playoff game. So I'm looking forward to getting back as soon as possible and hopefully before the season is over."
The Saints (6-7), who trail Minnesota by one game for the final NFC wild-card spot with three games to go, could have put Bush on injured reserve, meaning Bush would miss the rest of the season. Such a move also would open up a spot on the 53-player active roster.
The team discovered last week that Bush has a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament, which does not require surgery but likely will require about a month of rehabilitation.
"Obviously you don't want to rush or risk anything," Bush said, but added, "I plan on coming back as soon as possible, hopefully by Chicago."
Payton rarely releases information on injuries before league rules require it because he doesn't want to offer future opponents any advantages as they prepare for the Saints.
Bush became New Orleans' featured running back after Deuce McAllister went out with a season-ending knee injury in Week 3, but his production was as inconsistent as his team's performance.
Bush has scored six touchdowns with 581 yards rushing and 417 yards receiving. His longest run was 22 yards and his longest reception 25. He also had 10 dropped passes and fumbled eight times, losing three.
With Bush out of the lineup during New Orleans' 34-14 victory at Atlanta on Monday night, the Saints rushed for a season-high 145 yards.
Bush said his knee has been bothering him since New Orleans' victory over Jacksonville on Nov. 4, but that there was no sign of a ligament tear until he had an MRI last Thursday night, only hours after he had participated fully in practice.
"I told them that I want to play. I don't want to be on IR," Bush said. "It's not about the pain because I've been playing through it. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain. ... It's about the high-risk factor and risking further injury."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press