Bears Michael Bush provides insurance runs
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org September 16, 2012 9:53PM
Running back Michael Bush had 14 carries for 54 yards in the Bears’ 23-10 loss Thursday night against the Packers. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images
Updated: October 18, 2012 6:19AM
Michael Bush jokingly predicted his next career move when summing up his current job.
“I’m just an insurance policy, man,” Bush said. “I’m going to start my company like that.”
In a 23-10 loss Thursday night in Green Bay, running back Matt Forte suffered an ankle injury, and his status is unclear. Unlike Forte’s two previous backups, though, Bush is on the rise. His production has increased each season since 2008.
After Raiders starter Darren McFadden injured his left foot last season, Bush started nine games. He finished with 977 rushing yards and scored eight touchdowns (seven rushing, one receiving).
In March, Bush signed a four-year, $14 million contract to serve as Forte’s insurance policy in case of injury or a holdout. Before visiting the Bears, Bush was overwhelmed by his emotions.
All the reasons the Bears wanted him — his versatility, his terrific hands, his knack for pounding out the tough yards — surely would appeal to the handful of teams in need of a starter.
But Bush cried when his agent informed him of his limited options, not only on the depth chart but the league’s pay chart.
“It’s not about starting,’’ Bush said during training camp. ‘‘It’s about getting what you think you should have gotten. That was the whole thing about that.”
Bush, 28, entered the NFL in 2007 as a fourth-round pick of the Raiders. Just like in his NFL career, Bush’s numbers increased each season at Louisville.
A highly recruited high school quarterback, Bush passed on more prominent programs because then-Louisville coach Bobby Petrino promised him a chance to stay at his preferred position. But Petrino ended up recruiting another coveted quarterback from the area, Brian Brohm, and Bush grudgingly switched to tailback.
By his junior year, Bush was one of the nation’s best, running the ball 205 times for 1,143 yards and 23 touchdowns.
He could’ve declared for the NFL draft, but he opted to return for his senior season, when he was projected as a Heisman candidate.
“He was great,” said Louisville teammate Amobi Okoye, who was a top-10 draft pick. “I mean, he was a big back, a big athlete, and bringing him down sure as hell was hard.”
In the season opener, Bush took his first carry 48 yards for a touchdown. He had 128 rushing yards before Kentucky linebacker Wesley Woodyard broke his right tibia on a routine play.
“It was terrible,” Okoye said of Bush’s injury. “It was one of those injuries you would never want any athlete to experience.”
Added Bush, “It was a football play.”
Bush spent his rookie season on the physically unable-to-perform list because his right leg wasn’t quite healed. And despite his numbers increasing every NFL season, Bush couldn’t shake the knock against his athleticism.
“I put in a whole lot of work,’’ Bush said. ‘‘Because of the injury coming out of college, I proved myself. But I still read papers and hear I’m not an every-down back, this and that. Last year, I was like, ‘What are you watching?’ ”
Bears’ top choice
Early in the offseason, Bears general manager Phil Emery asked running backs coach Tim Spencer to provide a list of running backs who caught his eye.
“I checked them out, and I said, ‘There’s only one guy I want, and it’s Mike,’ ” Spencer said.
Spencer, though, assumed Bush would land a starting job elsewhere.
“I thought someone would swoop him up, and we wouldn’t have a chance,” Spencer said. “But we got him, and I’m glad we got him.”
Bush had a strong training camp and preseason and scored twice in the opener against the Colts. Against the Packers, Bush had 14 carries for 54 yards.
“Whatever happens, we want Forte on the field,’’ center Roberto Garza said.
‘‘But Michael Bush is a running back who can do everything. We won’t take a step back.”
Bush appreciates the way he has been embraced by the Bears, and he’s determined not to have a drop-off with Forte out.
“Hopefully, I can keep it rolling,” Bush said. “I know I have to be ready to play.”