He definitely didn’t think he’d be labeled as a tackle/guard at this stage of career.
But the former Super Bowl winner and two-time Pro Bowler as a left tackle with the Saints spent the past two years as a right guard with the Miami Dolphins. And now he is back in New Orleans as something of a super-backup, ready to fill in at either of the tackle or guard spots for a team that he feels is on the cusp of another title.
“I think initially they’re bringing me in to be a veteran swing guy, and that’s OK,” said Bushrod, who has been a full-time starter in the NFL for the past nine years with the Saints, Chicago Bears and Dolphins. “It comes a time and place where you have to sit back and put some of your accomplishments and past seasons, look at them and figure out where you are in your career physically and mentally and where you’re trying to go and what you’re trying to accomplish. And I felt like this was the perfect fit.
“This team has everything, the arrow is trending up. And this is the team that brought me in, who gave me the opportunity, who let me grow the way that I needed to. So I was very fortunate in that. ... You just keep grinding and keep working, and then a situation like this happens. So I’m gonna do everything to make myself better, do everything I can to make this team better and those around me better, and hopefully we can hold that trophy up.”
Bushrod, 33, had a disappointing 2017 season that ended early because of a foot injury. And he suggested late last year that he may even contemplate retirement.
But Bushrod knew heading into free agency that he still wanted to play – he was just going to be selective about where. A return to Miami would have been cool. A return to New Orleans – where he met his wife, a New Orleans native, after his rookie season – was just as good.
“For them to step up and come out and say that they were interested, it was a no-brainer for me. We got the ball rolling as soon as we were able to, and we had this in the works for the last couple days,” Bushrod said. “So we’re very excited about it, even though it’s a tough time for the organization now with [owner Tom] Benson passing. But our thoughts and prayers are with the Benson family and this great organization. We’re gonna fight to do the family proud.”
Kelemete was even more rare, in that he had experience playing center as well as both guard and tackle spots.
But Bushrod is close enough after adding the guard position to his repertoire late in his career.
“Two years ago when I got released by Chicago, Miami took a chance on me, being that I just came off of a shoulder injury,” Bushrod said. “I wanted an opportunity to start going into my 10th year a couple years ago, and they told me my best opportunity was at guard. I had to figure out a way to get it done.
“You know, some growing pains early on, but we kind of felt like we hit our stride. And there’s always something to learn because that was a position I never played ever, even going back to high school. So the fact that a goal of mine was to play 10-plus years in this league, to continue to keep starting and want to be on the field, that was my best opportunity.
“So however I could give back and help my team, you gotta do what you gotta do.”