Bush’s message could be tricky for Saints

The New Orleans Saints felt like they received a godsend when USC running back Reggie Bush fell to them with the second pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

The Saints selected Bush immediately after the Houston Texans decided to select DE Mario Williams out of NC State as the best overall pick. Texans owner Bob McNair and ousted general manager Charlie Casserly proceeded to sign Williams to a six-year, $54 million contract.

New Orleans fans, looking to celebrate something after Hurricane Katrina, rejoiced on the air on draft day and came out and awarded owner Tom Benson and the Saints with a sell-out of all season tickets.

The Bush era began positively, but now things are not looking so good. Bush told ESPN.com in a recent interview that the Saints need to be open at the negotiating table. “We have to have a fair offer. One that meets our expectations.” The ‘we’ and ‘our’ stand for Bush and his agent Joel Segal.

The word was not mentioned, but the meaning and implication were obvious: if Bush didn’t get the offer he wanted, he might resist. What is it that he wants? A similar or slightly better contract than the one Williams got from Houston. Maybe that’s why the Texans abandoned him?

And while it’s too early for New Orleans to hit the panic button just yet, resistance is something the franchise, the city and Bush don’t really need.

Benson, a notoriously frugal landlord, has been trying to get out of New Orleans for a decade. He may not be willing to give in to Bush’s demands. The city and its inhabitants need someone or something to look up to. Football fans seemed to have found it in the USC product. But what will Bush’s reaction be if he resists?

Bush will hurt his career if he has prolonged stamina and misses significant time in camp. Everyone who has ever done it has suffered from it in their rookie season. The NFL is faster, more explosive and more dynamic than college. A holdout has to go through a steep learning curve to get into the groove.

A recent example is Chicago running back Cedric Benson. The Texas star was absent for most of training camp and suffered because of it. He couldn’t eliminate Thomas Jones as a starter and when he came on in the middle of the season, he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

This may be all smoke and mirrors just to get a big contract. Unfortunately, this is a very common occurrence in the modern NFL. Guys who haven’t played a down are paid eight to nine million dollars a year with huge signing bonuses. Agents have to because there are no guaranteed contracts in the National Football League, which is why the signing bonus was created. It is money in advance that is guaranteed.

Still, I long for the days when a rookie would sign a reasonable contract, walk into camp and learn the system, and then win a big contract on the field. Believe me. If he’s good, he’ll eventually get a lot of money, via an extension or free agency.

Just sign and enter the camp, perform in the field, the money will follow. Because you never know. Bush could be the next Sayers as everyone is saying or he could end up being the next KiJana Carter. Nothing is certain until you taste it on the grill, not at the bargaining table.