After seven seasons, Bush hasn’t been worn down by years of overuse. His body hasn’t been beaten up by weekly poundings. His legs aren’t dragging because of too many carries.
Just the opposite, in fact.
The Michael Bush signed by the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday still has plenty of tread left on his tires, but how well-oiled they are is an entirely different question. Bush hasn’t played a down since Week 17 of the 2013 season with the Chicago Bears, which concluded his worst season in the NFL with a career-low in carries (63) and yards (197).
“I'm fresh," Bush said. "I've been fresh for two seasons. I ain't been on the field so, yeah, I'm good."
He spent the first 12 weeks this season training, playing golf and wondering why he wasn’t given at least a flier by a team in need of a short-yardage back.
“It was tough because a lot of people can’t really give you a reason why,” Bush said Wednesday. “They say you’re 30, your age, but I only got 800 total carries. You look at somebody else who’s 30 they got about 1,200 or 1,500 carries, and I’m like, ‘Yo, I ain’t even broke a sweat.’
“But it’s out of my hands so I just try to take care of what I could.”
Of the nine NFL running backs who are 30 or older, five of them have more carries in their career than Bush’s 809, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
When he spoke before his first practice since last season, Bush wasn’t sure how his body would react, but he anticipated playing the role of Atlanta running back Steven Jackson on the scout team. With only three padded practices left – and none this week – Bush said that puts him behind as far as getting hit for the first time since December.
It’s unlikely that Bush will have a significant role Sunday in Atlanta, but he said playing on special teams might be an option.
“It’s going to be hard to have a guy who didn’t play in OTAs and didn’t have a training camp, and for me to give him the ball on Sunday, that would be pretty hard,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.
But Arians isn’t in a rush to get Bush involved.
“We didn’t sign him for this week,” Arians said. “We signed him for the long haul, so we’ll have him ready when we need him.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said packages for Bush would start being implemented Wednesday, and they’ll likely involve short-yardage and goal-line situations.
In his seven-year career, Bush has 12 touchdowns on 26 goal-line carries. And in the red zone, he’s run for 249 yards and 24 touchdowns inside. In short-yardage situations – when a first down is within four yards – Bush ran for the first down 52.8 percent of the time, the same percentage as the Cardinals this season.
Bush doesn’t see himself as just a power back who can get tough yards, and his career suggests it's more than a belief. In 2011, he had career-highs of 977 yards, seven touchdowns and 256 carries, but his stint in Chicago typecasted him in a single role – a characterization that Bush said was perpetuated by the media.
The Cardinals discussed signing Bush for the last three weeks, Arians said, and brought him in for a tryout Tuesday two days after running for just 64 yards against Seattle.
“The stigma with me is a big guy who can get hard yards,” Bush said. “I think there’s a reason they brought me in as well, and when the time is right, coach will let me know and we’ll go from there.”
Arians liked Bush’s size and has been impressed with what kind of shape Bush was in this week. Bush has been training since February when he anticipated his release from the Bears. He moved to Arizona last spring and drove to Tuesday’s workout.
“He’s got really light feet for a big man, so he can jump and cut a little bit and get it north,” Arians said. “It’s something we really haven’t had since Jonathan [Dwyer] was lost. [Stepfan Taylor] did a nice job last week, but we’ll see what kind of role we can develop for him.
Arians added: “Whether it’s a major addition or just a minor one, we’ll wait and see.”