It must really be the dog days of summer. Preseason is still a few weeks away and with only two first rounders signed, bored journalists with no basis for a story tend to invent one anyway. It gets sort of ridiculous sometimes. So it comes as no surprise to me that Yahoo Sports, surely the first name that comes to everyone's mind when "investigative journalism" is mentioned, ran a story discussing the possibility that Reggie Bush will sit out the entire year in a contract dispute with the Saints and re-enter the draft next year. Now forgive me if this gets heated, but I'm taking this personally.
I'm not sure what Yahoo has against Reggie Bush -- they were the ones who broke the "house" story, at a time when a public controversy could have potentially sunk Bush's draft status -- but this story is entirely based in speculation and sensationalism. The claim is based on a report that the Saints promised Bush money worthy of a #1 pick and have since backed down, attempting to sign him in the #2 slot he was picked. I know the Saints better than most -- I've loved them through lots of hard times and lots of stupid decisions, but I can say with absolute faith that the team isn't inept enough to promise Bush that sort of money. First of all, whenever a player is drafted, the team holds all bargaining power. For the Saints to promise Bush that sort of money off the bat, they'd be handing him every last ounce of leverage. Say what you will about the Saints, and they've deserved it. GM Mickey Loomis hasn't proven himself to be a brilliant talent evaluator thus far, but the one thing he is great at is managing the cap and negotiating deals.
It seems far beyond the realm of possibility that Loomis and Co. made this claim to Bush. Assuming they did is to make the assumption that that is the only way Bush would have agreed to play for the Saints. But even if that was the case, the Saints would have drafted him and Bush would have refused to play. It's one thing to be Eli Manning and refuse to play in San Diego, which did a fair amount of harm to Manning's character. It's quite another to shun a city still recovering from the worst natural disaster in American history and sit out over a couple of million dollars in a city where the average family only makes $32,000 a year. This would have damaged Bush's reputation beyond repair.
Bush has also already donated an incredible amount of money to the area in efforts to revitalize the city. He's supplied new Hummers to the police force, donated $50,000 to keep a school for handicapped children open, supplied the money to renovate a history children's football field, and has donated half of all his jersey sales to charity. He's simply invested too much in the area, and if he even had the slightest intent of sitting out for the year, he wouldn't have made such an effort to endear himself to the area.
What Bush's camp and the Saints are doing right now is negotiating through the media. It's something that happens every year. And, guaranteed, Bush will miss some training camp time. But he'll be there for the first game of the year. He'll lose too much. Not only is there the possibility that something could happen between this year and next -- injury, emerging college players, lethargy, general ill-will from the rest of the league -- that could cause him to slide farther than the slot he was picked in by the Saints, he's already received millions of dollars in endorsements from Subway, Hummer, Adidas, etc. With all of the bad press that would come with his refusal to play for the Saints, endorsers would be hard-pressed not to pull those checks away.
Also, there's that whole deal about Reggie Bush RECENTLY buying a $1.8M house in New Orleans. For all of the hard work Yahoo put in researching their story, they couldn't bother to check the New Orleans Times-Picayune real estate transfer section?
I'm disappointed in the way this story has gotten its legs. Even the normally sensible people at Deadspin have gotten in on the hype. The fact is, Bush wants the most money he can get. The Saints want to spend as little as possible. They both understand, however, that it's in their best interest mutually to get something signed before the preseason. But until then, they'll play games to jockey for position and these bored, boring, buffet-crashing sports journalists will jump at every morsel they can in order to avoid beat-writing for their local MLB team.