- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 3, 2011

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Drew Brees says he has been in touch with Reggie Bush and hopes the running back will see that he can still play a key role with the Saints even though the club made a trade to acquire Alabama running back Mark Ingram in the first round of last week’s NFL draft.

Brees said he saw a Twitter post in which Bush wrote, “It’s been fun New Orleans,” shortly after Ingram was drafted.

Brees said he texted words of encouragement to Bush soon after.

“I think that’s just frustration a little bit, just because they draft a guy at your position,” Brees said. “But I think the message that was sent to him was, ‘By no means look at that as … you’re getting shown the door, that we don’t want you,’ or anything like that.”

Brees spoke Tuesday before one of a series of workouts he’s organized at Tulane with Saints teammates, who are prevented from using team facilities or having contact with coaches during the NFL lockout.

Bush was not among the nearly 40 Saints who showed up.

Brees said he saw a parallel between the drafting of Ingram and the Saints’ decision to draft Bush in 2006, when running back Deuce McAllister was one of the club’s featured players.

“Deuce handled that situation better than anybody ever could have and he had one of his best seasons in 2006,” Brees said. “He was a huge part of our success. I think Reggie has that same potential to be that big a part of our success this year despite the fact that we’ve got three other guys.”

Before the lockout, the Saints signed Pierre Thomas to a four-year contract. Chris Ivory, who led the Saints in rushing as a rookie last season, also will be back.

Brees, who was in San Diego when the Chargers made a trade to draft quarterback Philip Rivers, said he was sympathetic to Bush’s initial reaction.

“He’s a young guy, he’s very prideful and wants to be great. He wants as many opportunities as he can get,” Brees said. “I think you immediately see (drafting of Ingram) as, ‘Oh, well, that’s taking opportunities away from me.’ But in reality, I think you’ve got to find the positive in it.”

Brees said more depth at running back will reduce the need for the Saints to have Bush carry the ball on traditional, bruising rushes into the line and allow him to focus more on his strengths, such as his elusiveness in the open field and his ability to play receiver.

As for the decision to draft Ingram, Brees added, “I think it’s great.”

“He adds an awesome element to an already impressive backfield that we have,” Brees continued. “When you have three physical backs like you’re talking about with Pierre and Ivory and Mark Ingram, you need that many guys to be able to pound the ball. And then you throw in Reggie, (who has the) ability to be split out and catch the ball and run the ball in any situation, that’s four guys that are pretty lethal.”

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