|USC Legends News|
For someone so proficient at running to daylight, Reggie Bush seems hopelessly trapped in the dark when it comes to the performance of his agent, Joel Segal, and his marketing rep, Mike Ornstein.
The last time a top-five draft choice received worse representation was 1999, when fellow San Diego County Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams signed with rapper Master P's fledgling sports company, then agreed to an eight-year contract with the Saints that was short on guaranteed money and long on incentives.
It's now starting to look as if Team Bush is equally negligent when it comes to protecting the client's best interests.
Segal, whose background includes a one-year suspension by the players association for funneling cash to a University of Florida athlete, blew the running back's chance at being the first pick in last month's draft by making ridiculous contract demands.
Halfway across the country, a well-known NFL player took a break from his workout to watch Bush's first interview after the allegations of NCAA violations surfaced. When Bush stammered and stumbled after being asked if his family paid rent while living in the home, the veteran said out loud to the television what others were thinking in their heads: “He's not ready. He . . . is . . . not . . . ready!”
Wasn't then, and isn't now.
In some respects, it's amazing to witness the ineptitude that has taken place. When Bush left USC after winning two national titles and playing for a third, he was everybody's All-American. He had a clean background, a great smile and a game that, according to some, comes around but once a generation.
But now it seems as if Bush can't get out of his own way, in part because he's receiving poor advice from his handlers.
Two weeks ago, he tried to say all the right things at the Saints' minicamp. He told reporters he was ecstatic to be in New Orleans as the second pick, that he wanted to help rebuild the city and that he was confident his agent and the team would come to terms on a contract before training camp.
“I told my agent that I want to be here in camp on time, whatever it takes,” he said. “I don't want to get caught up in holdouts or anything.”
A few days later, after probably being informed that he had just undercut his agent's negotiating leverage, Bush was sent back out to “clarify” his remarks. His new position was that the Saints' proposal would have to “meet our expectations.”
If it weren't so painful, it would be comical. Here he had a chance to distance himself from the scrutiny of the NCAA's investigation and the sting of falling to No. 2, but, once again, he was put in an uncomfortable and unfortunate situation because his handlers failed to do their jobs. And things might get even worse.
If Segal intends to seek in the neighborhood of $30 million in guarantees from the Saints, as some knowledgeable people throughout the league claim, New Orleans has a better chance of rebuilding its levees before the next hurricane season than Bush does of getting to camp on time.
Saints GM Mickey Loomis has no intention of paying Bush more in guarantees than Mario Williams received as the top pick. That pact included $21.75 million in guarantees, with the figure jumping to $26.5 million if the Texans exercise an option next year.
The saddest part of this situation is that the two people who should have been looking out for Bush's best interests – his parents – are the ones who helped create much of this mess. They not only surrendered too much control to Ornstein, who forged a relationship with Bush after hiring him as an intern last summer, but also allegedly violated NCAA rules by taking improper benefits from a man seeking to form a business partnership with their son.
The veracity of the claim can be debated from now until the NCAA concludes its investigation, but if various witnesses are to be believed, stepdad LaMar Griffin was walking around with his hand extended in every direction, eager and willing to take handouts tied to Bush's celebrity.
The only thing worse than being greedy is being greedy and sloppy, and Griffin was apparently both. Now Bush stands to lose the Heisman Trophy and one of his national titles. That's on top of the millions in guarantees he already has lost for not being the top pick.
Even in the dark, those realities shine brightly. The question now is, what will Bush do about it?
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