New Cardinals running back Michael Bush (left) talks with fellow back Andre Ellington at the outset of Wednesday's practice.
Just 20 minutes before, Bruce Arians, talking about new running back Michael Bush, stressed that the Cardinals "didn't sign him for this week, we signed him for the long haul."
Bush, who before Wednesday hadn't practiced with an NFL team since the Chicago Bears put him on injured reserve last December, was encouraged when he heard his coach's comment.
"That puts a smile on my face," Bush said. "I've got to learn the offense, I've got to get adjusted to the terminology. I have to
clear what I've learned in the past to do what I'm doing now. So he's right."
The Cardinals have been searching for a way to get their running game going, even though their loss last Sunday snapped a six-game winning streak. The ground game had not performed as well as offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin had wanted in a number of games, and once starting quarterback Carson Palmer was lost for the season, its importance only grew as the Cards try and put current starter Drew Stanton in better spots.
The hope is that Bush, who at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds becomes the bigger back missing since Jonathan Dwyer was placed on the non-football-injury/reserve list after just two games, can add that spark. Andre Ellington is going to continue to be the focal point of the offense, but Bush can provide some inside power and goal line carries.
When that will be remains a question. Arians simply spoke to reality when he talked about Bush's immediate availability. The Cardinals have only three more padded practices allowed to them through the collective bargaining agreement and Arians wasn't using one this week.
"It's going to be hard to have a guy who didn't play in OTAs and didn't have training camp," Arians said. "For me to give him the
ball on Sunday (in Atlanta), that would be pretty hard."
Arians said the Cardinals had been looking into Bush for three weeks before finally deciding to bring him in. Bush has been waiting much longer than that. He most recently worked out with the Redskins; he had a meeting with the Patriots "a while back" and Tennessee "a long time ago." But nothing had come to pass, with teams often citing his 30 years of age.
But Bush said because he's only had about 800 carries in his career – compared to 1,200 for some backs at age 30 – he's younger in football terms.
"I'm like, 'Yo, I haven't even broke a sweat yet,' " Bush said.
In his career, Bush has 3,250 yards and 29 touchdowns on 809 carries, a 4.0 average. He had only 197 yards rushing last year in Chicago.
The question is whether Bush can fill the void that was left when Dwyer was dumped from the roster following his domestic violence arrest. The Cardinals have seemed to have been missing such a piece.
"I wouldn't say that, necessarily," Stanton said. "I think there are a lot of things that we need to take care of, and that's one of
many where we need to find a way to make it work. Whatever that is, and whoever that is, we'll find a way to step up."
The Cardinals have averaged 46 rushing yards a game the past three weeks, although Arians said he saw some efficiency on the ground in Seattle.
"It's one of those things that you'd like to find a way to be more successful in that area, but there's no substitute for guys going out there and putting in the work, or the effort, and putting that forth." Stanton said. "I know those guys are out there doing everything they possibly can. Eventually, we're just going to try to find a way to break through."
Left tackle Jared Veldheer played with Bush in Oakland and remembered a player who no one relished tackling, and a player who could break bigger runs late in the game as the defense wore down.
"We have to execute our blocks regardless of who is back there," Veldheer said. "But it's great to have a complementary backfield where it feeds off each other."
Arians said the addition wouldn't necessarily change Ellington's workload. That would be determined on a situational basis. On the season, Ellington has 648 yards on 196 carries – only 3.3 yards a rush – and Arians said Ellington's nagging foot injury and subsequent lack of practice time has definitely impacted Ellington's play.
The Cardinals have also been looking for more consistent blocking up front to clear running holes.
Whether Bush ends up making a difference given all the factors is an unknown, something even Arians acknowledges.
"We have the opportunity to get it done, get (Bush) ready," Arians said. "Whether it's a major addition or just a minor one, we'll wait and see."