Lining Up Protection

Saints' Bushrod And His Coach At Towson Prepare For Freeney

Super Bowl

February 03, 2010|By Juan C. Rodriguez | Juan C. Rodriguez,Tribune Newspapers

MIAMI - -The weekly conversations were brief, but emboldening.

Before every game, Jermon Bushrod and John Donatelli, his offensive line coach at Towson University, would discuss the pending matchup. They would review the opponent's strengths and tendencies and the best way for Bushrod to answer.

This week is no different. New Orleans Saints left tackle Bushrod and Donatelli have spoken twice in advance of the Super Bowl and the duel with elite Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney.

"I wanted him to know I was thinking about him and let him use me as a sounding board for his preparation," said Donatelli, a Calvert Hall graduate who has been on the Towson football staff the past 12 seasons. "He comes from a place of certain humility but great confidence."

Bushrod, 25, will need every drop of it to get the better of the engagement - if it materializes. Freeney's injured ankle could leave the Colts short a playmaker. Most would say Bushrod and the Saints are better off with Freeney watching from the Sun Life Stadium sideline.

Yet when Bushrod visualizes having success in this game, it's Freeney he's opposing.

Freeney "will be on my mind pretty much until the game is over with," said Bushrod, the Saints' fourth-round draft pick in 2007. "I can't worry about what everybody else is thinking, what everybody else is saying. I just have to go out there and get the job done."

At Towson, Bushrod redshirted as a freshman and started the next four years - 38 straight games. In his final season, the Tigers were 7-4.

Bushrod's ability to do the job has been a weekly point of discussion. He was slotted on the depth chart behind Pro Bowl pick Jammal Brown but didn't stay there long. Brown underwent sports hernia surgery in August and the next month was back in the operating room for a hip procedure.

The Saints placed Brown on injured reserve before their fourth game.

Enter Bushrod, whose first start as a pro came in an Aug. 22 preseason game against the Houston Texans. He played in three regular-season games during his first two seasons combined.

"He got put in a situation you don't want to be in," said Brown, the Saints' first-round pick (13th overall) in 2005 out of Oklahoma. "All of a sudden, 'Hey, Bushrod, you're starting.' He's taken that on and done a great job. Definitely, he had to grow. Protecting Drew Brees' blind side, that's our team right there. He knew the pressure that came with it and handled it well."

Bushrod performed well against the Atlanta Falcons' John Abraham and Carolina Panthers' Julius Peppers and struggled against the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware. In the NFC championship game, Bushrod helped neutralize Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl player Jared Allen, who had just two tackles and no sacks.

"My preparation is going to be the same whether [the matchup] is hyped up or not," said Bushrod, of King George, Va. "I try to get as much film study in on each player I face. Every week to me is a big matchup."

A certain offensive line coach in Towson can attest to that.

super bowl

Sunday, 6:28 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Line: Colts by 5

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