O'HARA: Reggie Bush showing no signs of slowing down

Posted Jul 29, 2014

At least on the surface, running back Reggie Bush is defying the NFL theory that the shelf life for running backs is shorter than for most other positions.

At least on the surface, Reggie Bush is defying the NFL theory that the shelf life for running backs is shorter than for most other positions.

There are no visible signs of wear and tear or serious damage as Bush enters his ninth pro season and second with the Lions.

Reggie BushRB Reggie Bush (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Next March Bush will turn 30, the age threshold when running backs typically decline as if they’re sliding down a ski jump.  When they reach the 30 barrier, the falloff is fast and steep.

Father Time wins every time as athletes battle to beat the clock, but Bush has a standoff in production and demeanor. His upbeat nature ingratiated him immediately with his teammates when he signed with the Lions last year, and he gave the offense a big-play threat running and receiving that had been nonexistent out of the backfield.

Outwardly, it seems as if Bush never has a bad day.

“When he shows up on the field, he’s always ready to go,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said after Monday’s first training camp practice. “He’s a guy that has high energy. He works at his craft and understands what it takes to be successful in this league.

“Physically, he looks great. He always looks the same. He looks healthy, which I know is a plus for a running back coming into a season, not starting off with any nicks. It seems like he’s moving around great.”

Bush has not been a workhorse back at any of his three stops – New Orleans, Miami and now Detroit – playing running back is still a grind that exposes players to a level of contact unlike other positions.

Last season’s league rushing stats show that running back is a position that relies on young legs.

With, 1,006 yards rushing, Bush was one of 13 backs to go over the 1,000-yard mark. Of the other 12, only the 49ers' Frank Gore is older and has played more seasons than Bush. Gore turns 31 this year in his ninth NFL season.

The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson turned 29 in March and is in his eighth season. Also turning 29 this year are the Bears’ Matt Forte (seventh season) and the Jets’ Chris Johnson (seventh).

Bush has often used the line once spoken by all-time NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith that playing running back is like having 25 car crashes a week. But day after day, Bush looks like he’s fresh out of the bump shop – as good as new, no signs of damage, and always upbeat.

“I think it’s a little bit of luck,” Bush said Monday. “Learning to take care of my body over the years comes with experience.”

As he spoke to reporters, Bush looked and sounded like he’d just had one of the most enjoyable days of his life. He actually likes training camp.

“I do,” he said. “I’m one of those guys who feels like I need it to get my body in football shape. I don’t feel like by any means I could play a regular-season game right now. I feel like I need to get a few preseason games in.

“The team has to get its chemistry – where it needs to be. Then we’ll be ready to play a game.”

One element of that chemistry Bush enjoys is the camaraderie of the locker room.

“My favorite part of training camp is just getting back in the locker room – being with the guys, being around the guys, telling jokes, laughing,” Bush said.

Bush had the heaviest workload of his career last season, with a personal high of 277 touches – 223 carries from scrimmage and 54 receptions. His 1,006 yards rushing and 506 receiving were the second highest totals of his career. The 1,512 yards from scrimmage were his career high.

It was the third straight year that Bush had at least 200 carries from scrimmage. The previous two were with Miami.

All signs point to the Lions making the running backs a bigger part of the offense this season under new head coach Jim Caldwell. That doesn’t necessarily mean more work for Bush, or any other individual back.

The workload will be divided among a collection of tailbacks, led by Bush and Joique Bell, and with a fullback as a lead blocker and pass-protector. How they’ll be used remains to be seen, but it’s likely they’ll try to take advantage of individual skills. For example, Theo Riddick could be a receiving specialist and get more work than the nine carries and four receptions he got as a rookie last year.

“I think it’s about keeping guys healthy,” Bush said. “I don’t think it’s just running back by committee, but make sure guys are healthy when we need to be playing our best football.”