METAIRIE, La. (AP) -Deuce McAllister has run into a road block in New Orleans. The Saints all-time career rusher can't get on the field.
Confident he's healthy enough to play - and play well - McAllister has been mostly watching from the sideline for the past two weeks. He has been frustrated at times, but trusts that patience and leadership will see him through.
So far, McAllister has yet to utter an inflammatory word about the negligible playing time he's seen during New Orleans' first two games, unlike fellow former Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson in Kansas City, who said last weekend that he believed he was being phased out.
``It's not something that I'm going to go and fuss and wine about,'' McAllister said a day after the Saints' 29-24 loss at Washington. ``You look at what's going on in Kansas City. ... That's not good for him or the team. That's not something I'm looking to do here. So whatever my role is, that's what I'm going to go and do.''
tently stacked eight players close to the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
Those were McAllister's first and only two carries of the season. He dressed for the Saints' season opener, but never got on the field while Reggie Bush and second-year pro Pierre Thomas shared all the carries.
``The biggest thing is, you want to play,'' said McAllister, the only running back in Saints history to be voted to consecutive Pro Bowls (2002-03). ``You want to be involved, and not being used that first game and not really getting a lot of playing time (at Washington), you're frustrated, but at the same time, it's something I will deal with. I'll continue to work my butt off in practice.''
McAllister said he could handle ``more of a workload,'' then added, ``It's one thing to say you can do it and another to go out there and actually do it, but I think I've prepared myself, body-wise, to say I can go out there and handle it.''
After the Saints' season opening win against Tampa Bay, it hit head coach Sean Payton that he had to offer McAllister an explanation. Payton said he called McAllister at around 9 p.m. that night to make sure the 29-year-old running back knew he was still ``in the plans.''
el like he's clearly further along than he was at the start of training camp. There haven't been any setbacks, so I feel encouraged.''
The Saints play this Sunday in Denver, where the altitude can influence how visiting coaches rotate players. Thomas, who also plays on special teams, may need more of a break from running back duties.
``To rotate three (running backs) is more challenging,'' Payton said. ``When and if we get to that point, and I think it's coming sooner than later, then certainly the question is, how much does Deuce affect Pierre's role?''
As McAllister stood on the sideline at Washington, he couldn't help but think back to the last time he'd played on that same field in 2003, when he ran for 165 yards. Five years and two knee reconstructions later, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound McAllister knows he's not quite the running back he was back then. But he won't sell short his ability to help the Saints win with crucial short-yardage gains or by protecting Drew Brees with punishing blocks on blitzing defenders.
``I'll go out there and prepare to be the starter against Denver. That's how I have to prepare myself,'' McAllister said. ``If I don't play, then I don't play.''
has surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in all four seasons in which he had double-digit starts. In 2006, one season after his first reconstructive surgery on his right knee, McAllister had 1,057 yards and 10 touchdowns while sharing carries with Bush.
Last year, his season-ending left anterior cruciate ligament tear occurred in Week 3 and he had surgery soon after. The ACL was not McAllister's main concern. He'd come back fine from that before and the procedure has become old hat in the sports medicine world.
The bigger worry was the microfracture on his right knee, a painful procedure in which small holes poked through bone cause the secretion of soft tissue that mimics the padding effect of cartilage in the joint. The rehabilitation requires patience and delicacy, because if the new soft tissue breaks off, the operation is wasted.
McAllister wanted the Saints to keep him, but still feel secure they'd be protected if his knees failed. He agreed to a delay, and then a reduction, in his roster bonus last spring and a restructuring of his contract. While declining to go into detail, McAllister said the new contract will pay him close to the $4.6 million in salary and bonuses he would have earned this year, as long as he produces as he did when he was healthy for an entire season.
team can never have enough good running backs.
``It's coming,'' McAllister said, his eyes smiling confidently as he sat in front of his locker. ``The time is coming.''

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