By Ashley Dunkak
Detroit Lions head coach benched starting running back Reggie Bush in the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers not because of Bush’s trouble holding onto the ball, he said, but because Bush’s style is not suited to adverse weather conditions like the rain and mud that were present Sunday.
“Reggie’s not, in horse racing, wouldn’t be called a mudder,” Schwartz said Monday. “He’s an explosively quick guy, and he’s better on a fast track.”
Bush had another opinion.
“I think the opposite,” Bush told Detroit Free Press writer Dave Birkett. “I think running in those type of conditions, for me, I think is better because now the defenders have to constantly be on their heels and toes, and when you get guys off-balance in mud and when it’s raining and slippery, it’s kind of an advantage to the running back.”
Along with that mindset, Bush’s best rushing performance and best receiving performance both happened in bad-weather games. On Dec. 18, 2011, Bush racked up 203 yards on the ground in a snowy game in Buffalo. His first year in the league, Bush caught seven passes for 132 yards in another snowy game, that one in Chicago.
Knowing he can have success in inclement weather “just makes me even more depressed,” Bush said about his poor performance in Pittsburgh, where he managed just 31 yards on 12 attempts, slipping several times and fumbling before ultimately being benched late in the game.
“It’s very frustrating because I want to be out there making plays,” Bush said. “I pride myself on being a competitor, every time my number’s called, competing and constantly putting my offense in positive situations, and I didn’t do that this past Sunday, so it was very frustrating.”
The loss, and his play in particular, has been nagging Bush in the days since.
“It’s been on my mind ever since,” Bush said. “It should sting. It should hurt. It should sting. It shouldn’t feel good. That’s part of being a competitor. When you know that you’re not performing to your capability, it should hurt.”
Though Bush did not agree with Schwartz’s implication that Bush’s game is not built for harsh weather, he did not make excuses for his play Sunday, and he did say the weather necessitates he adjust his game a bit.
“I had the right cleats in,” Bush said. “I had the studs in, I had the long screw-ins. I just have to do a better job in those conditions. Sometimes, especially for a guy like me, I can’t over-aggressively cut, I’ve got to keep my feet under me a little bit more and just handling the situation better. Whatever that entails, that’s what I’ve got to do. That’s what I’ve got to get done.”
In addition to slipping and not being able to rush for much, though, Bush knows that fumbling is something no running back can afford to do, and he will be doing ball security drills all week and remind himself of Sunday so he can prepare to not let a fumble happen again.
“As a running back, that’s a cardinal sin is to fumble the ball,” Bush said. “I know that. I’ve been in this league long enough, and I’ve been playing football long enough, to know that. I’ve got to do a better job this week. It’ll get done. I’ve had my back against the wall before. This has happened to me before. I’ll be all right.”