Steve Bush has always prided himself on being dependable, hard-working and versatile. The Packers felt the same way when they signed him on June 9, and the good news is that they feel even better about him now, nearly three months later.
Bush originally broke into the NFL as an undrafted free agent and spent his first four seasons with Cincinnati before moving on to Arizona for three years. Now, as he enters his first season with the Packers, he insists he hasn't changed, but the environment around him has.
"There's a lot of differences between Green Bay and where I have been," the 6-foot-3, 267-pound tight end explained. "The organization and how they treat the players, as well as the expectations and the community is unbelievable here. I've never had this kind of fan support in my career."
Bush, who was born and raised in Arizona, also attended college at Arizona State where he was part of a Pac-10 Conference championship team. He started three seasons for the Sun Devils, but never heard his name called on draft day in 1997. Bush eventually made the Bengals' roster, but returned to his home state in 2001 to play for the Cardinals.
He has now played in 65 consecutive games and is more than happy to build on that streak with his new team.
"My decision to come to this team was based on being able to contribute any way I can," Bush said. "It's a playoff-caliber team and some of the guys have been here quite awhile. I want to help out any way possible."
It's this type of versatility that piqued the Packers' interest in Bush. While his stats don't immediately jump out at you, Bush's ability to play several roles does. Besides tight end, he has played fullback, H-back, long snapper and wide receiver throughout his career. Bush said he has no preference where he plays just as long as he gets on the field.
"I want to push to get as much playing time on offense as I can, whether it's as a second tight end or an H-back, whatever they want me to do," Bush said. "I am always pushing to better myself, but whatever role they have in mind for me, I am just really pleased to be a part of the team."
Behind Pro Bowl tight end Bubba Franks, the competition for playing time seems to be wide open. David Martin, who enters his fourth season with the Packers, and rookies Tony Donald and Keith Willis are challenging Bush for a spot in the lineup, but Bush said that hasn't changed his expectations.
"I want to be a second guy; I want to be a first guy," Bush said. "I don't know what expectations they have, but I want to play a lot and be on the field as much as I can. Whatever position I'm at, that's where I want to excel."
The Packers' offense, which features a strong running game as well as a potent passing attack, is one of the best in the league. Bush knows that if he wants to be a part of that, he has to contribute in all facets of the game.
"I've always tried to consider myself a well-rounded tight end," Bush said. "I always took pride in my blocking and in my pass catching. I want to be a guy that if I have to block somebody, they will have faith in me to do that, and if I have to run a route, they have faith in me to be in the right spot to catch the ball."
According to tight ends coach Joe Philbin, Bush has proved more than capable of handling his responsibilities.
"We like what he is doing," Philbin said. "He's adjusted well to the system, number one. Secondly, he's gotten a lot of repetitions at the different positions we have. We haven't kept him at one particular spot; we've moved him around with the hopes of making him more versatile and able to fill in if we would happen to get an injury at one position or another.
"I think he is smart, he understands the game of football. He understands blocking schemes well. I think he has a good grasp of coverages and how to adjust to them in running routes."
It's not a surprise that other teams inquired about him this off-season, but Bush said he knew where he wanted to be the minute he arrived in Green Bay on a visit.
"I had three or four teams that I talked to and had visits planned," Bush said. "But once I came here, I didn't want to leave. When I saw what they wanted me to do and met the coaches and got a feel for the organization, I really didn't want to leave."
Despite growing up in Phoenix, Bush said adjusting to Green Bay has been easier than he thought.
"It actually feels kind of like a home town," Bush explained. "I've been in a big city all my life and I just like how tight-knit the community is here. The people are really wonderful. It's a great feeling and I am just really happy to be here."
Although Bush has never played an official down for the Green Bay Packers, that doesn't mean he hasn't helped them out before.
Last December 28, Bush made a diving touchdown catch with two minutes left in the Cardinals' season-ending victory over Minnesota. The play made the score 17-12, in an eventual 18-17 win that helped to vault Green Bay into the playoffs. Bush didn't know at the time he would get a chance to meet many of the appreciative fans, but admitted the Packer faithful has been everything he expected.
"The best thing about this place is the fans," Bush said. "Training camp is always a grind, but the kids waiting outside the fence wanting to give you a bike ride over to the field is unbelievable. You hear about it, but until you experience it, you don't know how neat it is."
If Bush thinks his time as a Packer has been great so far, just imagine what his first Lambeau Leap will feel like. Then, he truly will get to experience the uniqueness of Green Bay Packers fans.