During his three short years in the NFL, Reggie Bush has already wooed the crowd with dazzling runs of every kind, from just about every position. Whether he is a punt returner, running back or wide receiver, Bush has successfully provided eye-popping plays which have consistently ended with a trip to the end zone. However, despite posting 3,149 yards and 20 touchdowns from the line of scrimmage, Bush has been criticized for what he hasn’t done.
Due to a knee injury, which Bush has declared to be fully rehabilitated, he has missed 10 games over the last two seasons. His critics have also chosen to declare him a running back who lacks the ability to successfully run between the tackles and excel in short yardage and goal-line situations. To that Bush says, “That’s absolutely crazy. There is plenty of footage of me running between the tackles. I do need to improve on my inside runs. It’s been slow to come, but I know hard work does pay off.”
Bush understands that an improved overall running game will add a deadly balance to an already potent Saints offense.
“Pierre Thomas and I both need to step our game up,” says Bush. “But it takes 11 guys to affect the run game, not just one.”
While many outside the Saints organization want to cast Bush as unsuitable for the role of inside power runner, he and many inside the building are comfortable with his role.
“My desired role is doing what I’ve always done,” says Bush. “Split out wide, run the ball and play special teams in the return game. My job title is creating headaches for coaches and provide matchup problems.”
His GM, Mickey Loomis, supports Bush by stating, “He doesn’t have to be a between-the-tackle runner, it’s not what we expected. We talked about his role in the offense before we took him in the 2006 draft and Sean Payton said, ‘I have a package for him,’ and knew he would be a special player.” For a creative play-caller like Payton, Bush is the ultimate weapon. Payton explained that in his role, Bush has made his offense better.
“My goal,” said Payton, “is to keep him healthy with the proper pitch count and get him touches at punt return, running back and wide receiver. He has now evolved into a more mature player who knows the offense. Even Jon Gruden told me that he had nightmares with us using Reggie like we have.”
For everyone who wants Bush to be their kind of runner, try allowing him to be his own kind of runner. Just as we watched Gale Sayers and Barry Sanders create a new artistic form of running, we should allow Bush to freely find his own road to the end zone.
The key for any running back is to avoid negative yards while seeking daylight to run. Bush is a natural, instinctive runner who has been finding the end zone since he first laced up a pair of cleats. Let’s not confine him to the runner’s box, which exist in our own minds. Rather, let’s allow him and his coaches to define his role, and let’s see where it will lead.