Michael Bush is tired of watching after spending nearly two years on the sideline while his teammates got to play football.
Bush has not played in any game since breaking his right leg in the season opener of his final college season at Louisville in 2006. He missed the rest of that college season and all of his rookie campaign with the Oakland Raiders, putting special meaning on his exhibition opener against San Francisco on Friday night.
“I didn't think it'd be this long,” Bush said. “I was told six months, seven months. It turned out to be two years now. So I'm just ready to get out there and get it going again.”
Bush was considered one of the top running backs in the country before breaking his leg against Kentucky on Sept. 3, 2006. He was coming off a junior season in which he ran for 1,143 yards and an NCAA-leading 23 touchdowns and was being projected as a possible first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Instead he began a long rehabilitation process that has taken far longer than he expected. The leg didn't heal quickly enough from the original operation, leading to a second surgery about a month before the draft. That helped lead to Bush's slide into the fourth round, where the Raiders were happy to take a chance on a talented player.
He originally hoped to be ready for training camp last year but instead started off on the physically unable to perform list, where he remained once the season started.
The former Male High School star said he felt ready to return a few weeks into the season but never got the chance as the Raiders eventually placed him on injured reserve because they had too many other running backs in Justin Fargas, LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes.
Bush got to practice with his teammates for a few weeks last year before being placed on injured reserve. He admitted it was tough watching his teammates play football while he could only work on back fields, but he hopes it pays off this season.
“It was like I was training, basically, to one day get on the field,” he said. “There weren't any low points. I was out there basically focusing on my conditioning, just trying to get right in every aspect of the game as far as quick speed.”
Bush is now part of a crowded backfield in Oakland, which includes a 1,000-yard rusher in Fargas and heralded rookie Darren McFadden. Bush believes he has shown the coaches he is 100 percent by the way he can run and cut in drills.
Titans, Rams scuffle
The Titans and Rams had some feisty joint practices back in 2000, months after St. Louis beat the Titans in the Super Bowl, and it didn't take long Wednesday morning for tempers to flare up as they gathered Wednesday in training camp.
Rams receiver Reche Caldwell grabbed Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan in a bear hug and took him to the ground.
Rams Coach Scott Linehan was watching his defense with rookie end Chris Long going against the Tennessee offense and Vince Young when he heard some of the grumblings two fields over between his offense and the Titans defense.
“We've got to limit that,” Linehan said. “We can't get to where we lose our cool out here. It's that time of year. Guys aren't in very good moods out here. We've just got to make sure we continue to get better. It's good to see us compete and those things. We'll get rid of the extracurricular stuff. It wasn't anything big, a couple of little ones.”
That included Pro Bowl defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch skirmishing with Rams left tackle Adam Goldberg. After being blocked to the ground on his rush, Vanden Bosch took a big swing at Goldberg.
The head coaches tried to calm things down. But on the next play, Titans end Sean Conover tangled with St. Louis tackle Mark LeVoir, with Vanden Bosch rushing in to help, without his helmet.
Wednesday's first practice is the only session in full pads. Taking those off could help ease the tension in several sessions before the teams open the exhibition season Saturday night.
Rice's first NFL experience
Ray Rice has every reason to be nervous before facing the Patriots on Thursday night.
Rice has never attended an NFL game. Now he's poised to play in one, starting at running back against the defending AFC champions in the Ravens' pre-season opener.
“I know I'll get the jitters a little bit when I go out there because this is my first experience,” Rice said. “I've never seen a game, never been part of one. I was supposed to go to the Super Bowl this year, but I couldn't go because I was training for the scouting combine. So this is going to be exciting.”
Rice was drafted with the 55th overall pick after rushing for a school-record 4,926 yards during three sensational seasons at Rutgers. He is expected to be a backup as rookie, but will start against the Patriots because Willis McGahee is sidelined with a knee injury.
Orton to start in pre-season
The Chicago Bears named Kyle Orton the starter for the pre-season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. Finding a winner in his derby with Rex Grossman will take more time, though.
“In a perfect world, before the regular season starts,” Coach Lovie Smith said.