Bush Hopes Versatility Will Pay Dividends


As the expression goes, "the more you can do..."

For Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush, that has meant taking some snaps at safety this offseason. After serving as the team's primary nickel back and one of the key members of the special teams coverage units last season, he hopes the versatility he can bring will allow him to contribute even more in '08.

"It's something that I have to get more and more reps at, just use my versatility," Bush said. "I think the more work I get there the more I can get used to it and it will become second nature to me. The more I can do to help out this team, I'll be glad to do it. If they told me to play linebacker, I would do it. If they told me to play punter, I would punt."

Bush originally began taking some reps in practice at safety last November when starting free safety Nick Collins missed three games with a knee injury. Rookie Aaron Rouse stepped in as the starter alongside strong safety Atari Bigby, but the team was left with only one backup at the position, Charlie Peprah. The Packers didn't have to call on Bush to play safety during a game, but have continued to develop his skills in case of injuries at the position.

"I probably wouldn't have been really comfortable using him at safety at that point in time, but clearly now he has put himself in a position where he is a formidable candidate at that position if need be," secondary coach Kurt Schottenheimer said.

Schottenheimer pointed to Bush's work ethic when talking about the team's increased comfort level in using him at an additional position.

"He is always seeking out information and wants to talk about the position. Jarrett is a tremendous, tremendous worker and takes pride in whatever he does. Any task that you give him he is going to give it 100 percent to try to do a quality job at it. He has really, really improved as a player during his time with us.

"He's very smart, understands what is being asked of him, and can make the adjustments. It just takes time and repetition. We'll get more when we go into training camp, but I feel very comfortable with him being kind of the emergency guy at that position."

Bush, who has never played safety at any level, said he has benefited greatly from the increased on-field work at the spot during OTAs, along with time spent in the film room.

"This started last year but I didn't get as many reps as I did in the OTAs this year. Now I am actually looking at myself on film and they are coaching me up on what I need to do because you never know what could happen. It's good for me to know the overall defense and I've just got to keep working at it."

Bush is accustomed to challenges, entering the league with Carolina in 2006 as a non-drafted free agent out of Utah State. After being waived by the Panthers in the final roster cutdown, he was claimed by Green Bay the next day, where he has played 30 games the past two seasons.

After playing mostly on special teams as a rookie in '06, when he tied for third on the team with 13 special teams tackles, Bush saw his role expand last season. He was the Packers' main nickel back and got the starting nod at Dallas when Charles Woodson was inactive with a toe injury. Now he faces the adjustment of adding another position to his repertoire.

{sportsad300}"I've talked to Pep (Peprah) and he coached me up a little bit on the difference between playing corner and safety," Bush said. "It's basically coming up and filling some holes and some of the run gaps and tackling running backs coming downhill. It's going to be more physical, but just probably the reads and reading the pass/run is the crucial part about playing safety.

"It is just seeing the whole picture instead of just locking in on one wide receiver. That is going to take time."

Schottenheimer said the other crucial difference is the communication that is required from the position.

"It's the assignment, the ability to run the defense and make the adjustments, communicate the information to the corners and the linebackers, and make sure everyone is on the same page with what we are trying to do."

Since to this point Bush has only gotten snaps at safety in offseason workouts, he is looking forward to the first opportunity at putting his work to the test in a game.

"Hopefully they'll put me back there during the preseason so I know what it's like to be back there during a game situation," Bush said. "I want to work on getting the calls out and just being the commander of the defense back there."

The safety group will be comprised of the four returning players, along with Tyrone Culver, who missed the entire season with a shoulder injury. Bush will still be focused on competing for time at cornerback and continuing to make an impact on the special teams units, but the position flexibility he now possesses can only serve as a benefit to him and the team.

"The thing about him is he is such a tough kid and he is really an excellent special teams player," Schottenheimer said. "To have a guy that can do dual and play both corner, can play the nickel, can play the dime, can play the safety position, plus he is one of your top special teams players. The guy has got a long future in the league."

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