WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Rafael Bush on Wednesday poked fun at the Atlanta Falcons, who the Saints safety heard tried to shake their soft persona during the second episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” the NFL training camp-based reality show.
Sorry Mike Smith, but Bush wasn’t impressed with your post-scrimmage speech either.
“You’re either tough, or you’re not,” Bush said as the Saints wrapped up their West Virginia portion of training camp at The Greenbrier Resort.
These two NFC South rivals are 24 days from their 2014 regular-season opener at the Georgia Dome. Still, you can consider Bush’s playful, yet critical comments the first shot in another round of trash talk between franchises and fans.
The Saints won both games last season in the home-and-away series, watching the Falcons fail to reach the playoffs en route to a 4-12 record. The Saints were eliminated in the NFC divisional playoff by Seattle, the eventual Super Bowl XLVIII champions.
So, tell us how you feel about Falcons training camp on “Hard Knocks,” Rafael?
“I heard a lot of things about they’re trying to act hard, or they’re trying to be a tough team,” Bush said, smiling.
“Falcons are tough” is the message Smith wants to get out there.
“My thing on that is, you can’t just make guys tough,” Bush said. “It has to be instilled in you. You can wear it all you want, but it has to be you.”
True. Perhaps the Falcons’ plan to be a more physical franchise, and not one with a defense that last season ranked second to last in rushing defense (135.8 yards per game). Or an offense line that Saints Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan in April called, “roadblocks” and “speed bumps.”
Bush isn’t convinced.
“I don’t know if the tough-guy role is going to work for them,” he said.
The “Hard Knocks” moments in question: Smith, Atlanta’s coach, threatened his players with being removed from practice if they threw a punch during a scrimmage against the Tennessee Titans.
Still, center Joe Hawley did so. To the locker room he went.
Later, Smith supported Hawley in a team meeting, saying it’s a good penalty if you’re retaliating in order to stick up for a teammate.
That’s where Bush shook his head. His coach, Sean Payton, wouldn’t sign off on such foolishness.
“You retaliate and you get a flag for it, he’s going to be (upset),” Bush said of Payton. “It has to be within the whistles. We know that, we understand that.”
So what separates the Saints and Falcons?
“We want to be tough in the whistle,” Bush said. “We don’t want to be the tough guys after the whistle. That’s a totally different mind state over here. We’ll see how far that goes.”