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Week 17 in the NFL

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December 31, 2006|SAM FARMER

Bush finds grounds for enjoyment

New Orleans running back Reggie Bush, who's coming off his first 100-yard rushing game, told reporters this week that it feels good to get back to what he's accustomed to doing.

"I like to be known as a running back first," said Bush, who has 545 yards rushing this season, along with 729 yards receiving and 216 on punt returns. "That's what I love to do, and that's what I was drafted for. So I look at myself as a running back first, and I know the coaches do too.

"But the fact that I'm able to catch the ball so well out of the backfield, they use me at the receiver position too."

Bush has scored eight touchdowns -- five rushing, two receiving, one on a punt return.

"I think obviously with any rookie, there's a transition and there's a comfort level within the offense," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "But he was doing a lot early in the year as well. He was returning punts for touchdowns to win games. He was catching eight or 10 balls to win games.

"But now he certainly looks a little bit more comfortable with some of the off-tackle runs, and he's done a good job of putting his foot in the ground and getting north and south."

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Off to a crawling start

St. Louis can't seem to get rolling until the second quarter or later. The Rams have failed to score in the opening quarter in six of seven games. They've gone six weeks without scoring a first-quarter touchdown.

"Our plan is to start faster; it hasn't happened," Coach Scott Linehan said. "I think our guys are coming out with a little bit too much of a wait-and-see [approach], instead of trying to take the game to our opponent. I think we relax and get more comfortable as the game goes on, when we figure out kind of what people are doing.

"But it would certainly help us to get off to a fast start and maybe take the lead early in a game for once."

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Pump up the volume

Seattle is in line to play host to a wild-card game, probably against Dallas. The Seahawks have a significant home-field advantage in that visitors often have problems with the noise at Qwest Field.

"It is a really, really tough to play in this stadium," San Diego Coach Marty Schottenheimer said last Sunday after his team had four false starts. "I always thought that Arrowhead was the toughest, but this place might be as tough as any I have been in. The sound just cascades down from the second level."

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He'll be back ... maybe

Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner, who will start against San Diego today in place of injured rookie Matt Leinart, says he fully intends to come back for another season.

"I'm going to come back and play," Warner told reporters this week. "I want to play. I feel like I have a lot of football left in me. That's my plan as of right now.

"Not that that can't change when the off-season comes around and me and my family sit down. But I signed a contract to be here with the Cardinals. ... That's where I go into the off-season thinking, that I'll be back here in a Cardinals uniform next year."

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Spreading him too thin

Devin Hester, Chicago's sensational rookie returner, has lobbied to play offense, and the Bears lined him up at receiver for one snap against Tampa Bay two games ago. A quick hitch to him fell incomplete.

Then, last week, Hester played a bit of cornerback in the nickel package because of an injury to Charles Tillman. Lo and behold, his returns suffered.

"Devin Hester made a couple of bad decisions on catching the ball, whether he was catching or letting the ball roll or whatever," Coach Lovie Smith said after last Sunday's victory over Detroit. "We're doing quite a few things with him. Maybe we need to take a few things away from him and make sure what he does best, returning the football, remains that way."

Hester, meanwhile, told reporters the secret to his long returns.

"I see colors," he said. "If we're in white, and I see blue over to one side, that's the red zone. I don't go there."

Try to figure out that one.

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-- SAM FARMER

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