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Bush has Browns on high alert



Published: Thu, September 7, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Cleveland is looking for ways to neutralize New Orleans' blur of a rookie RB.

BEREA (AP) -- "Stop Bush!" is the cry in Cleveland this week, and it's got nothing to do with politics or Iraq.

As they gear up for their season opener against the New Orleans Saints, the Browns are devising ways of stopping -- or at least slowing down -- Reggie Bush, the Saints' blur of a rookie running back who will be making his NFL debut.

"He can break one anytime he has the ball in his hands," Browns defensive tackle Orpheus Roye said. "He's an explosive guy who can make big plays. That's all you saw on TV when he was in college. Reggie Bush this, and Reggie Bush that."

Impressive re & acute;sume & acute;

All-American. Heisman Trophy winner. No. 2 overall pick. Three-time All-American at USC. Bush's re & acute;sume & acute; is stuffed with superlatives, none of which means a thing once the ball is snapped Sunday.

"This is a whole different league," Browns cornerback Gary Baxter said. "You have to give him respect for what he did in college, but right now it's a new era for him."

It will begin against a Cleveland team that yielded 137.6 rushing yards per game last season, the league's third highest average. The Browns plugged holes in their defense during the off-season by signing free agent nose tackle Ted Washington and linebacker Willie McGinest.

The first-team defense showed significant improvement against the run during the preseason, but that was the preseason, and the Browns didn't have to contend with any back close to being as fast as Bush.

New Orleans plans to line him up in the backfield by himself as well as alongside Deuce McAllister, the Saints' career rushing leader who missed the final 11 games last season with a knee injury.

Pass and dash

In limited playing time, the 6-foot, 203-pound Bush finished the exhibition season with 10 carries for 102 yards, with 44 coming on his second run of the preseason against Tennessee.

On the play, Bush was stopped behind the line of scrimmage before bolting around the left side. With nowhere to go, he cut back to the right, beat two Titans defenders to the edge and turned up field.

It was vintage Bush, who regularly pulled off similar escapes with the Trojans.

"He's special, man," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "He can do so many things. Everything you saw in USC highlights we pretty much see every day. The guy is as physically gifted as anyone I've seen."

Babatunde Oshinowo was a firsthand witness to several of those Bush breakaways while at Stanford.

"He got outside on us a couple of times and hit some really big runs," said the Browns rookie, who was signed to the practice squad earlier this week. "Whoever is on the outside has to make him run inside."

It's that, or watch No. 25 disappear into the distance.

Bush, too, showed he can catch the ball, leading the Saints with 10 receptions during the preseason. And, he'll return punts.

"He is someone you want to make sure is touching it 15 to 20 times per game," said first-year Saints coach Sean Payton, who mostly kept Bush under wraps in four preseason games.

Browns shorthanded

The Browns will face Bush and the Saints shorthanded on defense. Starting free safety Brian Russell is doubtful after undergoing minor surgery on his elbow last week, and cornerback Daylon McCutcheon is out following knee surgery. Also, Baxter will be playing for the first time since straining a pectoral muscle in Cleveland's exhibition opener.

"He's able to line up out of the backfield and catch the ball," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "He's able to reverse his field and make people miss. I'm not saying he's Marshall Faulk, but when you prepare for him, I think you have to take that into consideration."

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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