Man at work: Packers' Bush puts in extra effort

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By Bob McGinn
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thursday, August 15, 2013

GREEN BAY--There are hard workers, there are workaholics and then there’s Jarrett Bush.

The Green Bay Packers have had a multitude of diligent, dedicated football players since their birth in 1919. Bush is worthy of being in the company of every last one of them.

Since joining the team on waivers in early September 2006, Bush hasn’t met a day that wasn’t made for work.

We’re not talking about what’s expected of all Packers. We’re talking about doing more, which Bush has done religiously—day after day after day—going on eight seasons.

“Do a little bit extra when you finish,” Bush said this week. “It’s who I am. It’s what I was taught.”

If you’re at Nitschke Field for one of the seven remaining practices of training camp, stick around afterward. Ten minutes after coach Mike McCarthy calls the team together and all players have departed for the air-conditioned respite of the locker room, a solitary figure will remain.

Minus his No. 24 jersey, Bush toiled alone for 12 minutes Aug. 6 after a practice in pads for almost 2 1/2 hours.

Running back and forth across the 20-yard line at the vacant south end of the field, he alternately backpedaled, shuffled and used a karaoke step. One time, he would traverse the 53 yards kicking his knees high in exaggerated fashion, then returned moving backward and kicking his legs behind him in awkward style.

Bush finished with football drills, crouching and cutting as if he was breaking on a receiver.

Outside the fence, assistant equipment manager Bryan Nehring sat in a golf cart observing the daily scene.

“He can’t ever do enough,” said Nehring, who is in his 34th season with the Packers. “I have to kick him out.”

The 2011 collective bargaining agreement limits the time teams can have their facilities open to players. Before then, Bush preferred spending 30 minutes after each practice.

“He used to go into the Hutson Center and bring out (gadgets) to help him train,” said Nehring, whose job for years has been to padlock the field. “Or he’d go inside and work.”

In all his years, Nehring can’t recall another player who did more after practice than Bush.

On Tuesday, Bush practiced in pads for two-plus hours, worked an estimated 15 minutes alone and then came upstairs for lunch and interviews.

Suddenly, he began strapping on a 6-pound weighted vest.

“I’m going out to run stadiums,” Bush said. “I usually go up and down maybe eight times. I’ll do it five times today because I’ve only got like 10 minutes.”

Bush, 6 feet, 1/2 inches and 200 pounds, has to be among the best-conditioned players on the roster. Shawn Slocum, who has coached Bush on special teams since his arrival, has seen him exhausted but never needing replacement.

“He’s like the Energizer Bunny,” said Slocum. “He keeps going. That probably has something to do with his training.”

Cut as a rookie free agent by Carolina in 2006, Bush was awarded to Green Bay on waivers. He played just 15 snaps from scrimmage as a rookie but 276 on special teams.

The leader on teams back then was linebacker Tracy White, but when he was cut five games into the ’08 season Bush accepted the mantle of leadership and has worn it ever since.

Despite a plethora of penalties, Bush has performed with such incredible focus every single snap that almost annually he has been rated the MVP of special teams by the coaches.

On defense, Bush had turbulent rides as the nickel back for 13 games in 2007 and seven games in ’09.

Despite not being blessed with great awareness and fluidity in coverage, Bush wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept getting better from scrimmage.

His tremendous interception of Ben Roethlisberger in the 45th Super Bowl will live forever in Packers lore, and he was good enough to earn the opening-day start at right cornerback last year.

Bush returned to his special-teams only role the next week, but if the man were crushed, you’d never know it. There were games to be won and his role to be played.

Once again, there’s a crowded field at cornerback, and at 29 Bush’s age could be a factor.

“But let me tell you something,” fellow cornerback Tramon Williams said. “This is a guy, year in and year out, a lot of guys try to write him off. But ain’t nobody that can outwork him.

“You don’t have that type of work ethic and passion from a lot of guys in this league.”

Bush hasn’t missed a game since 2007. Wiry, explosive and strong, he aims to keep his 91-game streak alive.

“I do this (extra) every day but I’m not in it for people noticing,” said Bush. “It’s what I take pride in, and it pays off in the end and helps us win football games.

“I just try to be the best person I can and work hard. That’s what my pops and mom instilled in me. That’s what I’m going to continue to do until all 32 teams tell me no.”

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