Bush surprises as a receiving option

Bears running back Michael Bush, signed as a free agent this offseason, has proven adept as a pass catcher during OTAs, giving the club further leverage in Matt Forte's contract negotiations.

One of the early positive elements of the Chicago Bears' workouts, perhaps even an epiphany of sorts to some coaches, has been the performance of tailback Michael Bush as a receiver.

The four-year veteran, signed from Oakland as an unrestricted free agent and presumptive backup to franchise tailback Matt Forte, has caught the ball well.

There were some concerns as the Bears install the offense that is designed by new coordinator Mike Tice that the team might miss the receiving skills of Forte, who remains unsigned and is sitting out the OTA sessions. But Bush has been a bit of a revelation so far.

He's not Forte, admittedly, but not bad, either. In his four seasons with the Raiders, Bush wasn't often utilized as a receiver out of the backfield, and he registered just 91 catches for his career. Part of that, of course, was that Bush was not a full-time starter.

Still, after averaging only 18.0 receptions his first three years, Bush had a career-best 37 catches in 2011, when he started a career-high nine contests. One of the NFL's premier all-around backs, Forte has averaged 55.8 catches in his four league seasons and recorded 50-plus receptions every year.

But there has been no substantive progress in contract discussions with Forte, the Bears aren't sure when he'll report, and, even with the upgraded talent at wide receiver, Chicago needs a backfield receiving threat. Sure, it's only OTAs, but Bush has provided some indication he can somewhat fill the bill.

Bush was added as a complement to Forte, and once the starter resolves his contract situation, he'll go back to providing a solid power runner who loves to bang people. Until then, though, his role is expanded, and he's proving capable.

Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

Bear Report Top Stories