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 METAIRIE, La. (AP) -Reggie Bush said he regrets the events that made him the New Orleans Saints' featured running back - not that he's hiding his excitement about how his role may change following Deuce McAllister's season-ending knee injury.
``I hate that it came off of such a big loss for us in Deuce, but I feel confident in myself that I'll be able to carry the load and make up for what we're losing with Deuce,'' Bush said. ``I feel like we won't miss a beat.''
Bush doesn't run like McAllister. He doesn't run over linebackers or cause cornerbacks to crumple under a vicious stiff-arm. Bush also doesn't block blitzing defenders with as much head-to-head force as the bigger, heavier McAllister does.
What Bush does, when at his best, is to fake defenders practically out of their shoes and leave them grasping at air as he accelerates into the open field, sometimes for spectacular touchdowns.
So head coach Sean Payton will have to make Bush's style work. Bush even made an unscheduled walk to the coach's office before last weekend's bye to tell Payton it would.
``I just wanted to reassure him that I was the guy for the job and I was going to work hard at everything at practice and that I'd prove that I could be the every-down back,'' Bush said. ``He wasn't worried about it and he knows that I'm looking forward to the challenge.''
Payton sounded persuaded - sort of.
``Reggie will get more carries,'' Payton said. ``We're not going to sit there and hand it to him 35 times, though.''
Payton also has veteran running back Aaron Stecker on the roster, as well as undrafted rookie Pierre Thomas, who was the best-performing back during the preseason.
``Aaron is someone that has a lot of experience and someone that is durable and dependable. Pierre Thomas is someone that we're not afraid to play,'' Payton said. ``You'll see those three guys in some way, shape, or form and we'll see how it goes.''
So far, the running game hasn't gone well at all for winless New Orleans.
They're 29th in the league in rushing yards per game (79.7). Bush has only 80 yards on 29 carries through three games. Stecker has carried the ball only five times for 27 yards and Thomas has been inactive for the first three games.
As a rookie last season, Bush gained 1,523 total yards and shows no shortage of confidence in his ability to turn things around or to withstand the punishment that goes with being an every-down running back.
``In this situation, longevity's key, knowing when to get down, knowing when to get out of bounds, knowing when to take my opportunity, that's really it,'' Bush said.
This will be a new challenge for Bush, who even while winning the Heisman Trophy at Southern California split carries with LenDale White.
At 6-foot, 203 pounds, Bush is a couple inches shorter and more than 30 pounds lighter than McAllister. He has heard numerous questions about his ability to be an every-down back who can pound the ball between the tackles when necessary.
``In college I wasn't really an every-down back ... came here to New Orleans and it was the same situation, so maybe people just look at it as I split time for so long that I might not be able do it,'' Bush said. ``For me, I look at guys like Barry Sanders, Warrick Dunn, Marshall Faulk, Tiki Barber, guys who were my size, if not smaller, and who did a pretty good job at showing they could be an every-down back.''
Since McAllister left for reconstructive surgery on his left anterior cruciate ligament last week, Bush said he has ``reached out'' to his fallen teammate.
``I really appreciated everything he did for me, him just being here and being the type of teammate he was, helping me and guiding me through my rookie year and just really being there,'' Bush said. ``I told him to get better and that was really it.''
Bush and McAllister complemented each other during last season's run to the playoffs but the situation has obviously changed. Bush believes he's ready.
``I've really been looking forward to this for a long time and I look at this as a great opportunity for myself, so it's not going to be difficult at all to change my mind-set,'' Bush said. ``Now it's here, and it's put up or shut up.''

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