Bush's role has shrunk since Cable took over

Michael Bush was a workhorse for the Raiders during the first month of the season. Since Tom Cable took over as interim head coach, however, Bush has rarely seen the field. Why?

The second-year running back rushed for more than 200 yards in a three-game span but has carried the ball minimally since. Bush had three carries for nine yards in the 34-3 loss to New Orleans then suffered the proverbial sock in the gut when he suited up but did not play in the 16-13 overtime win over the New York Jets last Sunday.

Part of the reason for Bush's decrease in playing time has been the improved health of fellow running backs Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden. Both were slowed by injuries early in the season, Fargas sitting out two games with a groin strain.

Fargas and McFadden split the duties in the backfield against New York, with Fargas shouldering the bulk of the work with 28 carries and 74 yards. McFadden chipped in with 39 yards on eight carries and added three catches for 50 yards.

Cable has also sought to throw the ball more than his predecessor Lane Kiffin. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell averaged just over 20 pass attempts during the first three weeks but is averaging 34 throws over the last three games.

Sources say Bush wasn't even scheduled to play against the Saints and was only called on after Fargas injured a finger in the game. When Bush suited up and didn't play against the Jets, Cable was asked why.

"You know, really I think just the flow of the game," he said. "You know, those two guys out there (Fargas and McFadden) really did a nice job. And that (Jets) defense, they're like third in the league in rush defense, really good. And so they really tested us. They had a lot of guys down in that box and that nose guard is a good player and those ends are good players, so let's just grind it out and try to out-tough ‘em."

But under that reasoning, the game against the Jets presented the perfect opportunity for the Raiders to lean back on Bush. The game was a defensive slugfest for the most part and it was clear that as the day wore on, players from both sides were tiring.

Bush had a clearly outlined role under Kiffin. It was to be the team's short-yardage back and a guy the offense could bring in late in games when an opposing defense was tiring out.

The Raiders kept trying to pound the ball against the Jets even through their first few possessions of overtime but didn't have much success. Yet Bush and his fresh legs remained on the sideline, when it seemed the time was right for his pounding, grinding style.

What happens this week in Baltimore could shed more light on where Bush stands. McFadden was limited in practice Thursday after his turf toe injury flared up. It's the same thing that slowed the rookie down earlier in the season when Fargas was out, opening the door for Bush to increase his playing time.

Bush has tried to remain upbeat and says he loves being with the Raiders. His name was dangled in trade rumors but nothing ever materialized. But considering how little he's played in the last few weeks, you wonder if ti might have been better for him if something had.


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