Carolina Panthers

Saints' Bush hurts left knee, crippling offense

New Orleans' Reggie Bush returns a punt as the Panthers' Landon Johnson gives chase late in the second quarter. Bush was injured on the play and didn't return to the game.
New Orleans' Reggie Bush returns a punt as the Panthers' Landon Johnson gives chase late in the second quarter. Bush was injured on the play and didn't return to the game.

CHARLOTTE -- The New Orleans Saints called a timeout with six seconds left on the clock in the first half to give running back Reggie Bush a shot at returning a punt Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

The decision proved to be a costly one, as Bush was stuffed by the Panthers' defense and never returned in New Orleans' 30-7 loss to Carolina.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Bush injured his left knee, stating that he will have his meniscus looked at in Birmingham, Ala., by Dr. James Andrews instead of taking the team flight to London. Payton said they are not certain how serious the injury is.

"The plan is to scope it," he said. "We'll have this week and then the bye week, and we'll see where he's at."

Bush wasn't the only player to go down, as center Jonathan Goodwin was helped off the field, but Payton said he believed Goodwin was in better shape than Bush.

"We're a little bit more encouraged with Goodwin, and a little more discouraged with Bush," he said.

Bush ended the game with nine rushes for 55 yards, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He also had one catch for 5 yards.

The Saints only trailed by six points and had produced 10 first downs for 144 yards at the end of the first half, but could not produce points without their leading receiver and primary playmaker in Bush.

Quarterback Drew Brees was 10-for-18 for 69 yards at halftime and finished with 231 yards passing. Although he produced yardage, Brees wasn't able to get his team any touchdowns as New Orleans mounted a scoreless second half.

Though he missed his productivity, Brees said his team was concerned about Bush's health.

"We were just kind of worried about him and worried about what was going on," he said. "Certainly, we've been in positions where guys go down and the next guy just has to step up and do the job. I felt like Deuce (McAllister) did a good job today and (Aaron) Stecker when he was in there."

McAllister said defenses are forced to adjust their strategy when he and Bush are on the field together.

"That makes it even more easy for myself," McAllister said, "because nine times out of 10, I'm not going to get eight (defenders) in the box."

When asked how Bush will fare with being out for a week, McAllister said: "He'll be fine. He's going to get himself ready to play, and we just have to hold the fort down for him until he gets back."

Although Bush is a running back, his eight touchdowns include three receptions and three punt returns. Through six games, Bush scored 48 points, gained 361 yards receiving and produced 239 yards rushing -- all team highs.

Sunday was also the first time wide receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey returned from stints on the inactive list, which added to the need for Bush's versatility on the field.

"When guys miss four or five games, I think there is an adjustment of coming back," Brees said. "As far as the offense, we all need to mesh together. And I can definitely say it didn't feel, and the results, were not the same as they are with all of us."

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