Saints eagerly awaiting arrival of 'Baby Matrix'
JACKSON, Miss. -- Not everything is coming easy for Reggie Bush, who after agreeing to a six-year contract with the New Orleans Saints had trouble finding an immediate flight from Los Angeles to Mississippi's capital city.
But while the No. 25 jersey continued to be absent from the New Orleans Saints' training camp Sunday, the Millsaps College campus where the team is practicing was enlivened by the news of his impending arrival.
"I'm kind of shocked he's [coming] here this early, but I'm glad, and I'm sure the rest of the team is glad Baby Matrix is here," said wide receiver Joe Horn, who came up with the "Baby Matrix" nickname for Bush. "You ever seen "The Matrix" ... when he's dodging those bullets? That's Reggie Bush. I thought of that because it was real. That's what I was seeing out there. I mean, the guy's phenomenal with his moves and the way he runs with the football. It's fact."
Some are calling the Heisman Trophy winner St. Reginald, playing off the real St. Reginald of Orleans, who lived in France centuries ago. Other's call him "the President."
Whatever he's called, he's generated unbridled excitement among football fans in the Gulf South -- so much so that the Saints are enjoying record season ticket sales despite the fact that much of New Orleans remains heavily damaged from Hurricane Katrina last summer.
Bush will be well compensated.
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis declined to discuss the financial terms of the contract Sunday afternoon, but noted, "We were sensitive ... to the fact that Reggie expected to be the first pick."
Bush was the second overall pick after Houston took defensive end Mario Williams, then signed him to a six-year, $54 million contract, with $26.5 million guaranteed. Reported incentives could increase the value of Williams' deal to a little more than $60 million.
In negotiations between Bush and the Saints, "We had to do some compromising on both sides to get to a deal that we both felt good about, or both felt bad about, depending on how you look at it," Loomis said.
Bush's agent, Joel Segal, was in Jackson on Sunday to work through details with Saints senior football administrator Russ Ball, who Loomis credited with doing the "heavy lifting."
Saints officials were unsure whether Bush would find a flight into Jackson late Sunday night or Monday. By Sunday afternoon, he had missed the first five practices of training camp.
"It's important to get [Bush] in here when we're in pads," coach Sean Payton said. "He hasn't been in pads for us. It is a new offense for him and so there's a lot of nuances that go on to a rookie's plate and a lot things that really are on him."
The signing heightens the likelihood that Michael Bennett, a former Pro Bowl running back who came to the Saints as a free agent before the draft, will be traded.
"Michael has done everything we asked and he's in a bit of a tough position because he signed here not knowing that we were going to draft Reggie Bush. We didn't know that either," Loomis said. "It could be that he's on our team and it could be another opportunity comes along."
Bennett has said he appreciated the Saints' position when Bush fell to second in the NFL draft.
"I'm just looking forward to getting his autograph on a jersey," Bennett said after practice Sunday. "I'm not frustrated, because if I was an organization and the guy fell to my team with the second pick, I would pick him too. He does some great things on the field."
However, Bennett said he would prefer a trade to seeing little action this season and added that he believes the Saints are sympathetic to his situation.
"They've communicated to me they're going to take my best interests at heart," Bennett said. "I don't want to have to sit here and maybe get one or two reps of practice. I'm a guy who needs to be in there getting reps whether it be on special teams or something. I can't really sit back and watch because it really starts to make me itch a little bit."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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