- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 29, 2006

Reggie Bush should be talking about the draft, about being one of the first players chosen, about his future home in the NFL.

The star running back from Southern Cal instead has spent the past week answering questions about his family, a house, unpaid rent, a landlord and a little-known agent named David Caravantes.

Bush, who won the Heisman Trophy this season and during his career led the Trojans to two national championships, should have had a week of celebration for an NFL career that was about to begin but instead was dealing with scandal.

The NFL players union said yesterday it is investigating Caravantes’ role in making rent payments for a house that was used last fall by Bush’s mother and stepfather.

The NCAA and Pacific 10 Conference began a joint investigation last week.

An added twist was confirmed by NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw yesterday: A potential extortion of Bush’s family by Caravantes when it did not sign with a marketing company associated with Caravantes. The NFL’s security department has informed several teams of their investigation.

“Things like this are about the integrity of the game and our sport and we have to make sure it is dealt with sufficiently,” Upshaw said.

Caravantes told the Associated Press: “I have had no involvement with Reggie Bush. The truth will come out.”

Bush’s parents reportedly didn’t pay $54,000 in rent for a house in which they lived for a year, a house owned by a sports marketing agency investor who wanted to represent Bush. The landlord, Michael Michaels, said he bought the house for $757,000. Michaels said Bush’s parents didn’t pay the monthly $4,500 rent but pledged to pay him when Bush turned professional.

Michaels’ attorney, Brian Watkins, said he plans to file a $3.2million fraud lawsuit against Bush’s parents.

On Thursday, Bush denied knowledge of any deal that involved his agreeing to sign with Michaels in exchange for the use of the house.

“I’m confident and I know what the truth is,” he said. “I know for a fact that everything is fine and this is all blown out of proportion and there’s more to the story than is being told right now.”

The Houston Texans have opted to use the No.1 overall pick on N.C. State defensive end Mario Williams, who signed with the team last night. That makes San Francisco a candidate to trade their two first-round picks to move up and select Bush. The 49ers picks sixth and 22nd.

Last year, Bush’s Helix High School (La Mesa, Calif.) teammate, Utah quarterback Alex Smith, went first overall to San Francisco. Bush’s resume, which includes last year’s Heisman, is more expansive than Smith’s was at Utah. But questions remain about Bush’s durability and whether he’s worth a top-five pick with three potential franchise quarterbacks and a game-changing tight end also available.

Bush’s size — 5-foot-113/4, 201 pounds — concerns teams. Can he survive 16 games? Can he run inside? Can he stay fresh if asked to play special teams?

Bush averaged 21.8 touches a game for the Trojans last year.

“I like to think of myself as an every-down back,” he said. “I wanted to emphasize that to teams that whatever team that takes me, I can be an every-down back even though I’m not the biggest guy. I’m not 220 pounds, but I can still carry the load and be in there when the game is on the line. I want the ball in my hands. I’m a playmaker.”

Said Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage: “More may be less and less could be more with Reggie. If they utilize him in the right way, he can still be a Heisman Trophy winner at the pro level, even if he’s touching the ball 10 or 15 times a game. At his size, carrying it 20 or 25 times a game for 16 games, I think that’s almost an impossibility for somebody to do that.”

Bush’s versatility and production — 42 plays of 20-plus yards last year alone — is unmatched by any prospect that could go today.

• Rushing: 433 carries for 3,169 yards (7.3-yard average) and 25 touchdowns. He had 1,740 yards rushing last year.

• Receiving: 95 catches for 1,301 yards and 13 touchdowns.

• Return game: 67 kickoff returns for a 22.7-yard average and 44 punt returns for a 12.7-yard average.

After Bush, three running backs could go in the final half of Round 1: Minnesota’s Laurence Maroney, Memphis’ DeAngelo Williams and LSU’s Joseph Addai. USC’s LenDale White could go in the first round despite a hamstring injury that prevented him from working out for teams.

Memphis’ Williams is the most established of the quartet, a bona fide workhorse who had 969 college carries. He would be an ideal fit for the Indianapolis Colts, who lost Edgerrin James in free agency.

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