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Saints RB Hamilton tears ACL in right knee, out for season

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Reggie Bush returned to practice Wednesday after missing one session because of cramps, and he might have become even more important to the New Orleans Saints.

Third-string running back Lynell Hamilton had to be helped off the field after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament during a joint practice with the New England Patriots, whom the Saints will play in the preseason opener Thursday night. It will be the defending Super Bowl champions' first game since they beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 for the title six months ago in Miami.

Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said Hamilton, who had been effective on special teams and in short-yardage situations, has a torn ACL, an injury that usually requires a year from which to recover.

"It was something that was kind of a freak deal," Saints coach Sean Payton said after the final practice.

Hamilton, who turned 25 last week, crumpled to the turf midway through Wednesday morning's practice. Trainers rushed out to attend to him, and a few minutes later, he limped off the field with a trainer under each arm.

Hamilton appeared in nine games last season, starting one, and ran 35 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 48 yards.

"We saw a lot of him a year ago," Payton said. "He played quite a bit for us in the kicking game as well as on offense. He's certainly a guy that factored in last year and contributed quite a bit."

Bush tried to talk to Hamilton after the injury.

"I'm hoping for the best and praying for him," Bush said before the extent of the injury was known.

Bush sat out the team portion of Tuesday afternoon's practice without explanation, then said after practice Wednesday that he was dehydrated and began cramping up.

"Other than that, it was nothing serious," he said. "Practicing today everything was fine. It was just a little bit more precautionary than anything to make sure I was 100 percent for this preseason game tomorrow. I'll be full go tomorrow in the preseason game."

Bush split the running back duties with Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell last season while leading the Saints to their first Super Bowl championship. Bell signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent during the offseason, and Thomas already has shaken off a left wrist injury that briefly knocked him out of practice last week.

Patriots linebacker Tully Banta-Cain said that having running backs with different styles is one reason the Saints have been so successful.

"When teams have three-headed monsters or two-headed monsters in the backfield, you've really got to know who's back there and how to play them," Banta-Cain said. "They're a dynamic group and they can do a lot of things. They present different problems. Each one of them has a different style of running the ball, so you really have to know who you're up against. Reggie's a really fast explosive player and Pierre's a stronger, downhill type of runner, so you've got the best of both worlds in their backfield. So it creates problems for the defense."

The Saints have looked around for running backs, including Ladell Betts, who was released by the Washington Redskins this offseason. Also on New Orleans' roster are P.J. Hill and rookie Chris Ivory.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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