By Ashley Dunkak
Given that running back Reggie Bush’s most recent play in a game consisted of a botched exchange that resulted in a turnover in a game that the Detroit Lions ultimately lost to Arizona, Bush understands the importance of ball security.
With the Chicago Bears and their “opportunistic defense” – Bush’s words – coming to town Sunday, though, Bush said the emphasis on taking care of the football should be higher now than ever for the Lions.
“They thrive off of turnovers,” Bush said. “That’s kind of been the staple for Chicago Bears for a long time, but they really are doing a good job this year at creating turnovers. Especially in the secondary, those guys do a good job at just stripping the ball out, punching the ball out. Obviously [Charles] Tillman does a great job. Last year I think he had, what? 10 forced fumbles, which is ridiculous, so we have to do a really good job at ball security.
“Ball security has to be our number one priority this game,” Bush continued. “Any and everybody who has the ball in their hands, when they’re in traffic, you have to have two hands on it. Another thing is that where fumbles happen a lot is where guys, you get a breakaway, and you see a guy coming, and it’s the guy from behind you [that] you don’t see that strips the ball out. We just have to be mindful every time we’re on the football field, wherever we are, just having it what we call high and tight, or having two hands on the ball.”
Sunday’s game against Chicago will be the first time Bush sees action since he suffered a knee injury against the Cardinals. He missed most of the second half of that game, and even though he worked vigorously the next week, coaches and trainers decided to also keep him out of week three’s game against Washington.
“It’s tough sitting on the sideline, man,” Bush said. “Especially when you know your guys, your teammates, are out there fighting, kicking and scratching for every nail, every inch … Now looking back into it, I think it was the right decision. If you would have asked me before the game, I would say no way, and I actually did say no way.”
Bush laughed a little and explained that while he appreciates the decision in retrospect, he had prepared to play and told the coaches he was good to go.
“I had did everything possible,” Bush said. “Literally I was every second of, every minute of the day, I was doing some kind of therapy to get myself back healthy. I could have played.”
If the news of not playing Sunday surprised Bush, the news he received Tuesday morning was a serious shock. He said he was sitting at breakfast with a small group of teammates, watching SportsCenter, when suddenly the story of Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson’s car crash popped up on the screen.
“I didn’t believe it at first, just because I had just seen him, was just talking to him,” Bush said. “When you hear stuff like that, your heart drops. For one, I was just worried about his safety for one. Then when I found out he was okay, just feeling for him because I’ve been injured. I’ve been on that side before, being injured on the football field, and that’s tough. It’s tough mentally on us as athletes because our confidence is the biggest thing we have.”
Bush said that even if Burleson cannot play he can still help the team because he is a spiritual leader for the group, and the players love the energy Burleson brings.
Rumors have swirled about whether the Lions might be shopping outside the organization for some extra help in the receiving game with Burleson out of commission. One of the most entertaining suggestions is Chad Johnson, who at one point legally changed his last name to Ochocinco, or Eight Five, in homage to his jersey number, 85. Amusingly enough, Bush did not sound particularly opposed to the idea.
“I was with Chad last year in Miami, and Chad’s a character, and he was going to start for us until the incident happened where then coaches released him, but he was our starting receiving, the starting X for us, so still a great route-runner, still – I don’t know if there is a better route-runner right now on the field,” Bush said. “He knows how to separate himself from DBs and from safeties. He’s a good player. If we would have him here, that’d be great, but obviously that’s not my decision – thank God!”