Saints News and Notes - 6/18/06

Even though he has yet to play a game for the Saints, running back Reggie Bush continues to give back to the hurricane-ravaged New Orleans community. Bush has already pledged to give 25 percent of his jersey sales to hurricane relief and donated $50,000 to help keep a school for children with special needs open since the Saints chose him with the second pick in the draft.

Last week, Bush scored more points when, through his sponsorship deal with adidas, he donated $86,000 to help restore the playing field at historic Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park. Because the field was under several feet of water after Hurricane Katrina, the playing surface was ruined.

Thanks to Bush's generosity, the city will be able to replace the field -- which is used by many area high schools -- in time for the 2006 season. In his honor, the field will be named Reggie Bush Field. At the announcement, Bush spent time touring the stadium and meeting with some of the high school coaches and players who will use the stadium again. He signed autographs and answered questions from about 30 players in attendance along with coaches and parents.

"I think that's almost more important than the actual donation itself," said Bob Becker, CEO and president of City Park. "Coming from a newcomer to the city, it's special for him to come out and say, 'I want to do something for that park, and I want to do something for the football teams and recreational activities in this community.' "

Bush said the ultimate goal is to get FieldTurf installed before the 2007 season. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Tad Gormley was used by more than 20 schools, both public and private, but no games were played last year after the storm inundated the field and destroyed the electrical system.

"Obviously, you guys need a field to play on," Bush said in talking to the players. "I played high school football, obviously, and that's where it all starts.
"I felt like this would be a great opportunity to help out. Now, all you guys have to do is go out and play football and pursue your dreams. And we'll take care of the rest."

PLAYER NOTES

--With six weeks to go before they hit the field for the first time at training camp, the Saints and top draft pick Reggie Bush are still in the early stages of contract negotiations. While it's early, Bush remains adamant -- as he has been since being drafted second overall by the Saints on April 29 -- about being on the practice field when camp begins. He denied rumors, however, that he or his agent is demanding he be paid like the top pick in the draft.

"Obviously, I would like to be in training camp on time," Bush said. "At the same time, that's the difference between college and the NFL. It's a business now, and that's the way you have to look at it.

"Obviously, in a perfect world, I would love to be in camp on time with a great contract and all that. I'm sure the Saints would, too. Hopefully, we can come to an agreement soon and get past that and play some football."

"These negotiations are always hard," said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. "Every guy asks for a lot of money. But we'll get it resolved. It will take some time, but we'll get it resolved. He wants to be in camp on time, and we want him here on time."

--Loomis told Sirius NFL Radio last week the Saints have talked to several teams about running back Michael Bennett, but denied that veteran wide receiver Donte Stallworth is on the trading block. With the addition of Reggie Bush in the draft, the Saints have a crowded backfield with Deuce McAllister and Bennett. Loomis, however, said the Saints aren't going to unload Bennett, who signed with the team as an unrestricted free agent in March, just to unload him.

"I think teams know that we've got an abundance at that position, that we signed Michael under different circumstances than ultimately we ended up with and that we'll talk about him," Loomis said. "I've told Michael and I've told his agent that if we can find the right situation for him, and it is the right deal for us, that we'd consider that. We haven't gotten to that point yet.

"Michael, to his credit, has been nothing but professional. He worked hard in the off-season, worked hard at the mini-camps, looked really good. We were excited and are excited about Michael Bennett, but we haven't gotten an offer that says to us, 'Hey, we need to make this deal.'"

Loomis said the trade rumors concerning Stallworth are unfounded.

"I've gotten a couple of calls, I think as a result of the rumors more than anything else," he said. "But we're not looking to trade Donte Stallworth. He's an integral part of our team and we're expecting a big year from him."

--The Saints completed their first off-season program under Sean Payton on June 15 with the last of their organized team activities, which came one day after the first-year coach rewarded them for their hard work.
Payton surprised his team with a field trip, dividing the roster into two groups and taking them to Folsom, La., for some paintball fun before giving them a six-week respite prior to training camp.

At the outing, the coaching staff handed out awards for participation in the team's off-season program.

--The Saints last week waived rookie quarterback Bruce Eugene, a New Orleans native who posted some big numbers in a spectacular career at Grambling State. Eugene, an undrafted free agent, signed with the Saints immediately after the draft. But he faced an uphill battle with his hometown team as he struggled with weight and conditioning issues in his short time with the club.

Eugene, who was listed at 6-feet and 255 pounds, played at more than 300 pounds in college. Still, he set a Division I-AA record with 140 career touchdown passes and ranks second with 13,350 career passing yards.

--Running back Michael Bennett was excused from the final week of the Saints' organized team activities following the death of his father.

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