Reggie Bush is haunted by a seemingly eternal question: Is he a full-time running back or a part-time utility weapon?
As Bush takes the first free-agent tour of his career, starting in Detroit on Tuesday with possible stops in Arizona, Washington and Cincinnati, he is once again faced with that question. Does he want to be a starting running back that plays every down? Or does he want to primarily be a third-down, pass-catching player who gets deployed to take advantage of matchups.
"Reggie has a tough decision to go through," a source close to him said Tuesday. "He's very careful about how he considers these situations. He asks a lot of questions and wants to know all the ins and outs about how a team wants to use him.
"But, you know, in his heart, he wants to play all the time."
He finally got a chance to do just that the past two years in Miami, producing 1,086 yards rushing in 2011 and 986 this season. He also caught a total of 78 passes those two years, underlining his ability as a dual threat.
Moreover, Bush is one of the most intriguing players in a free-agent market that is decidedly bereft of proven offensive players. Sure, wide receiver Mike Wallace (who got five years, $65 million from Miami on Tuesday) was the top name on the market and guys like Greg Jennings and Wes Welker are probably going to make way more than Bush.
Still, Bush is a coveted piece to the offensive puzzle so many teams are trying to build. That's why two of the four teams on his dance card are playoff teams from last year and Detroit, his first stop, made the postseason in 2011. Even as Bush enters his eighth season, he is considered a unique player capable of creating fear in the minds of opposing defensive players and coordinators.
"I don't think you have to redraw your entire defense, but you have to be aware of where he is and you have to have a plan," an NFC defensive coordinator said last month. "I was surprised to see how well he handled all the carries he got in Miami, especially without a lot of talent around him."
That's what makes Detroit so interesting. The Lions were hoping Jahvid Best would be their version of Bush until the Cal product was undone by concussions. Detroit coach Jim Schwartz, who had a decided affinity for Best, would obviously like to utilize a dynamic player of Bush's caliber.
The Lions have promised Bush a chance to be a full-time player, starting over Mikel Leshoure. Put Bush in a backfield with Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson outside, Brandon Pettigrew at tight end and Matt Stafford at quarterback and the Lions could quickly return to the offensive exploits they posted in 2011.
Bush would similarly be a full-time player in Arizona and would line up with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, but the real question there is the quarterback situation. In Washington and Cincinnati, Bush would be back to how he was used the first five years of his career in New Orleans – a part-time running back who mostly caught passes out of the backfield or lined up in the slot.
Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, who just watched Seattle counterpart Russell Wilson get Percy Harvin as a new toy, has said he'd love to have Bush in the same backfield. In Cincinnati, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden could easily come up with creative ways to use Bush in combination with quarterback Andy Dalton, tight end Jermaine Gresham and incomparable wide receiver A.J. Green.
That is, of course, if Bush gets out of Detroit. That's if Bush somehow turns down the chance to be a starter and full-time player once more.
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