Ray's Replies: Why didn't Reggie Bush reach his potential?

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Ray's Replies: Why didn't Reggie Bush reach his potential?

Q. I’m going to call you on the carpet a little bit here so I hope you don’t mind. Before Reggie Bush was drafted, I remember hearing you on the radio touting his ability, which was quite obvious at the time. I think you used the words, “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player” and “He’s that special.”
 
If we fast forward to now -- given the fact we all have the gift of hindsight -- he didn’t turn out to be all that special. I guess my question stems from the point of view of a talent evaluator for a pro team (which I’m not). What was it that you saw in him that made you think he would be that good and what happened to him that it didn’t work out that way?
 
This guy was as sure as the sure thing can be, but yet he’s not an every-down back and is at this point an afterthought in most people’s minds. I remember how people thought Houston was crazy for taking Mario Williams (ahead of Bush) but he has averaged about nine sacks per year even with a shortened year last year due to injury.
 
Eric T.
 
A. That’s a very good question, Eric, and timely, too, because we are now entering the pre-draft season in which every potential draft pick is scrutinized, analyzed and labeled, often incorrectly or unfairly. Certain guys will be labeled “can’t-miss” and they may be total busts. It happens every year.
 
You are right in one respect, I really did like Reggie Bush when he came out of Southern Cal in 2006. I’m not sure I ever called him a “once-in-a-lifetime” player, though. I didn’t think of him in those terms. Special? Yes, I’m sure I said that. But “once in a lifetime?” I don’t think so. But that’s beside the point.
 
You ask what I saw in him. I saw a dynamic runner with great vision and instinct, a back who combined 4.35 speed with the ability to cut on a dime and make tacklers miss. What really stood out was his pass-catching. I felt he was a better pure pass-catcher than any of the receivers in that draft. He combined soft hands with the ability to run crisp routes. He was ideally suited for the new NFL, a game of matchups, mismatches and throwing the football.
 
And, yes, I was one of those who felt Houston made a mistake when they passed on Bush and selected Mario Williams, a defensive end, with the first overall pick. I thought Texans GM Charlie Casserly made the wrong call. You got me there. Williams turned out to be a very good pick. Charlie was right and I was wrong.
 
But you ask what happened to Bush. Mostly, it was injuries. In his first five seasons, all with New Orleans, he never started more than 10 games in a season. From 2007-10, he missed 20 games with various injuries.
 
He certainly wasn’t a bust. He put up good numbers -- his 294 pass receptions led all NFL running backs in that period -- but he wasn’t the Barry Sanders-type franchise back that most people, including NFL scouts, expected him to be. He just kept getting hurt.
 
That’s what is so hard to predict. If a player has a history of injury either in high school or college, that’s one thing. It is buyer beware. If you draft him, you know what you’re getting. But Bush was not hurt at Southern Cal and he handled the ball a ton, running it, catching it and returning kicks. Durability was considered one of his many assets. That has not been the case since he came to the NFL.    
 
That’s what makes drafting players so tough. I sympathize with Howie Roseman and the other GMs in the league because so much is riding on every draft and so many things can go wrong. We all do mock drafts. We all rate players. We have our sleepers and our busts. But only the GMs have to live with those choices and ultimately answer for them. It isn’t easy.
 
If I’ve learned one thing over the years, it is there are no sure things in the draft. I’m the guy who rated Cade McNown as the best quarterback in the Class of 1999. Enough said.

Vince Velasquez says he's ready to pitch early next week

Vince Velasquez says he's ready to pitch early next week

SAN FRANCISCO – Vince Velasquez is back with the Phillies. He was in uniform and threw in the bullpen before Friday night’s game against the San Francisco Giants. If he checks out OK Saturday – and Velasquez was confident that he would – he will be inserted into the rotation early next week in Arizona.
 
Velasquez went on the disabled list after suffering a mild right biceps strain on June 8. He passed a test with a strong rehab start at Double A Reading on Wednesday.
 
Assuming Velasquez bounces back well after Friday’s bullpen session, he could either pitch Monday or Wednesday. Adam Morgan’s spot comes up Monday. He has a 6.55 ERA in 11 starts and could be sent to the minors to get things straightened out. Manager Pete Mackanin did not rule out the possibility of sending Morgan to the bullpen, a move that would necessitate subtracting a reliever from the current bullpen. Still another possible landing spot for Velasquez could be Wednesday if it was determined that Zach Eflin needed more time in the minors.
 
More will be known Saturday, Mackanin said.
 
Velasquez, 24, is a power arm and potential rotation building block for the Phillies. He has a history of arm problems – he is a Tommy John surgery veteran – so the Phillies will be careful with his workload the remainder of the season. That was the plan all along as Velasquez has reached 100 innings in a season just once in his career.
 
General manager Matt Klentak long ago said Velasquez would have an innings cap this season, though he would not disclose it. Velasquez said he and his agent, Scott Boras, have discussed an innings limit of “150-something, 160 tops.” Phillies club president Andy MacPhail indicated that the pitcher, his representatives and the team were “all in the same ballpark philosophically.”
 
Velasquez has pitched 61 2/3 innings in the majors and five in the minors this season.

Andrew Bailey’s injury is Edubray Ramos’ well-deserved opportunity

Andrew Bailey’s injury is Edubray Ramos’ well-deserved opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO – Andrew Bailey’s strained left hamstring turned into Edubray Ramos’ well-deserved opportunity in the Phillies’ bullpen.
 
Ramos, a 23-year-old right-hander, was called up from Triple A when Bailey was placed on the disabled list Friday.
 
“I never imagined this,” the Venezuela native said as he stood in the dugout at AT&T Park, the picturesque home of the San Francisco Giants. “I just want to take advantage of this opportunity.”
 
In a sense, Ramos has already taken advantage of an opportunity. He was originally signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as a 17-year-old in 2010. He pitched poorly in the Venezuelan Summer League that year and was let go after the season. He was out of pro ball for two years, even played some softball, before the Phillies offered him a minor-league contract. His signing bonus?
 
“Nothing,” he said.
 
Ramos showed improvement over two seasons in the Phillies’ Venezuelan academy, earned his way to the U.S. and never stopped improving. The Phillies placed him on their 40-man roster last fall. He pitched brilliantly at Double A Reading and Triple A Lehigh Valley before learning of his promotion Thursday. Lehigh Valley pitching coach Dave Lundquist delivered the news through Ramos’ teammate, Edward Mujica, a fellow Venezuelan.
 
“I couldn’t believe it, especially because Mujica was translating for me,” Ramos said through Diego Ettedgui, the Phillies’ major-league translator. “I thought he was fooling me.”
 
Ramos throws four pitches. He has a power fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. In 38 2/3 innings between Double A and Triple A this season, he had a 1.16 ERA. He walked just four batters, gave just 24 hits and struck out 41. He allowed just one homer.
 
Phillies officials believe Ramos has the makings of a future closer – he saved 10 games this season in the minors – and manager Pete Mackanin said he would not hesitate to use Ramos in high-leverage situations.
 
Ramos has the talent to stick around for a while. This is the chance he’d been waiting for, the one he did not think would even come when he was out of baseball and painting automobiles with his father in Venezuela and cleaning spills in a food-processing plant.
 
“The Phillies gave me a chance and here I am,” Ramos said with a big smile.
 
Bailey’s hamstring strain is not serious. In fact, he didn't believe a DL stint was necessary because he thinks he could be back in a day or two. But Mackanin said the team could not afford to go short in the bullpen for even a couple of days because the bullpen has been used heavily recently.
 
“I think I would have been all right for tomorrow, but that’s my opinion,” Bailey said. “It’s not a move personally I like, but it’s best for the team, I guess. That’s most important.”

NFL Notes: Lawyer doubts Johnny Manziel can stay clean

NFL Notes: Lawyer doubts Johnny Manziel can stay clean

DALLAS -- An attorney handling Johnny Manziel's domestic violence case expressed doubts about the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback's ability to stay clean and said he was given a receipt that shows Manziel may have spent more than $1,000 at a drug paraphernalia store just 15 hours after he was involved in a hit-and-run crash, according to a lengthy text message accidentally sent to The Associated Press.

Defense attorney Bob Hinton's text indicated Manziel's legal team was seeking a plea deal with prosecutors, but suggested that could be tricky.

"Heaven help us if one of the conditions is to pee in a bottle," the attorney wrote.

Hinton also wrote that he had been emailed a "heads up" receipt "which purports to reflect" that Manziel made a purchase of $1,018.77 at a Gas Pipe store at 12:03 p.m. on Tuesday, less than a day after his crash. A manager at a Gas Pipe location not far from where Manziel's crash was reported declined to discuss whether he bought anything there. A sign in the store says ID is required for purchases above $200.

"I don't know if the receipt is legitimate or not," Hinton responded when asked about it by the AP. "I just know that it doesn't say Johnny's name on it anywhere that I can see. It's just that somebody in that store, I guess, circulated that to the other store managers and employees saying, `Guess who was here today and spent this amount of money.' That's all I know" (see full story).

NFL: League to interview players named in PED report
NEW YORK -- Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and James Harrison will be interviewed next month by NFL officials in connection to a media report that linked them to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

A letter from NFL executive Adolpho Birch that was obtained Friday by The Associated Press says Green Bay linebackers Matthews and Peppers and Pittsburgh linebacker Harrison will be interviewed when training camps open. The Packers begin practicing on July 26, the Steelers on July 29.

The letter also mentions defensive lineman Mike Neal, a free agent who will be interviewed. It does not mention the now-retired Peyton Manning, who also was cited in Al-Jazeera's doping report in December.

But USA Today, citing an unnamed source, reported that an investigation into Manning's possible involvement also is progressing.

The NFL first notified Matthews, Peppers, Harrison and Neal about its investigation into the report on Jan. 11. That investigation has proceeded, but Birch wrote that the NFL Players Association hasn't responded to "multiple requests" to schedule the interviews, which would be conducted with a union representative present.

Al-Jazeera America reported allegations by Charlie Sly, who worked as an intern at an anti-aging clinic. But Sly later recanted his claims (see full story).

Steelers: Kicker Suisham cut after injury setback
PITTSBURGH -- Shaun Suisham's lengthy run with the Pittsburgh Steelers is over. It appears the longtime kicker's career may be in jeopardy, too.

The team released Suisham on Friday after he failed a physical. The 34-year-old is recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee suffered during the Hall of Fame Game last August.

The team hoped to bring Suisham to training camp, where he would compete with Chris Boswell for the starting job. Suisham, however, recently experienced a setback that general manager Kevin Colbert says pushed back the timeline on his recovery.

Suisham joined the Steelers in 2010 and converted 124-of-141 field goal attempts and each of his 173 extra-point attempts through the 2014 season. In a statement, Suisham described the knee injury as "catastrophic" and "critical" to his career going forward.