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Reggie Bush

August 13, 2006

Last night I went to the Tennessee Titans vs. New Orleans Saints pre-season game in Nashville. It was a fun time: my brother Matt and I were able to enjoy a fun evening, the game helped to fill the football void that had been in my life since the Super Bowl ended in February, and I was able to snicker often about the picture of Titans head coach Jeff Fisher that is shown for October 2006 in the Titans' team calendar that was given away as the freebie gift at the game.

Actual conversation (after we saw the picture):

Matt: I hope that's a short month.
Lou: I dunno, I think it's going to be a long October.

From there I speculated that Fisher received the October placement in case things went bad for the Titans this season and he didn't make it all the way through. You know, better safe than sorry in case we're talking about Interim Head Coach Norm Chow in mid-November.

For the record, I think Jeff Fisher is a good coach, but with that Key West butt-tickler moustache he is ripe for parody.

The game itself featured the debut of two exciting college football players: Reggie Bush (Saints) and Vince Young (Titans.) With incumbent starting RB Deuce McAllister still recovering from a torn ACL, Bush was in the starting lineup for New Orleans. And, wow, did he ever make a good first impression.

Reggie Bush's debut
Reggie Bush impressed me in his NFL debut.
The first time Bush touched the ball was out of the backfield as a receiver. Quick and elusive, he proved to be difficult to tackle even by the Titans first-team defense. I haven't seen a player juke out starting NFL talent like that since Barry Sanders.

To be clear, Sanders was a once-in-a-lifetime type of unique talent, and I'm not saying that Bush is the next Sanders. But Bush has the rare quickness and field presence to be able to dodge traffic and break it for big gains, as he did on one play in the second quarter. Cut left, cut right, and then break it down the far sideline for big yardage.

In one memorable moment, Titans 2005 first round pick Adam "Pac Man" Jones hit Bush square-up. The two seemed to collide together with an equal level of force, though the jolt sent Bush out of bounds. After the play, Jones and Bush went head-to-head talking smack and had to be separated by teammates. It was a pretty cool thing to see, as both players are expected to have big careers. Neither guy is lacking confidence, to be sure.

Young played for a large portion of the game, and he showed flashes of brilliance. However, he is still adjusting to the much-faster NFL level, and that combined with second-string WRs made things tough for him at times, with dropped passes and a couple of routes that didn't seem to be in synch. On one embarrassing play, Young was hit and spun around and threw up a circus ball that should have been intercepted. The Saints CB who dropped it looked like something out of a video game where you're up big and the CPU decides that you WON'T be intercepting any more passes.

T-Rac and friends
T-Rac may look cute and cuddly, but don't cross him!

While Young's debut was nice to see, Bush was the star of the evening in my book. And I hope that the Titans fans in attendance realized that they dodged a major bullet when the Texans passed on Bush with the #1 overall pick to take DE Mario Williams. Bush in the pre-season is one thing, but having to face him twice a year for the next several years would've been a major headache, particularly in a division that's already stacked with the Colts and Jaguars (which each had 12 or more wins last season.)

One thing that I missed, apparently while I was stuck in the long beer line at halftime, was the injury to Saints backup QB Adrian McPherson. Yes, that's the same guy from Florida State who was accused of betting on football and ultimately run out of college ball into the Arena League. The way he was injured is something out of a B-rate sports movie script. From wire reports after the game, here's the description of what happened:

T-Rac, the Tennessee Titans' raccoon-like mascot, hit Saints quarterback Adrian McPherson with a golf cart as he walked onto the field for the second half Saturday night, bruising him and knocking him out of New Orleans' 19-16 victory in the teams' exhibition opener in Nashville.

"He got run over by the mascot," coach Sean Payton said. "I don't know what to do. We've got to play the Titans. The mascots and all the other stuff going on, it's crazy."

That's up there with Cal Ripken, Jr. suffering a broken nose during the team photo for the 1996 All-Star game while he was still chasing Lou Gehrig's consecutive game record (White Sox pitcher Roberto Hernandez slipped on the tarp and collided with Ripken.) Luckily McPherson was not seriously injured, but you think with all the danger of playing in the NFL... he gets hurt by T-Rac? Bizarre.

For what it's worth, the consensus seems to be that the Titans' ceiling for wins is 5-6 this year. They're still digging out of a deep salary cap hole, and there are questions at the WR position (along with other spots.) But the atmosphere is positive, and there wasn't much negativity to be detected at the stadium. But I'd hope that would be the case -- the pre-season is a time of hope for every fan, regardless of what team you cheer for.

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