LAKE FOREST – No one has told Bears running back Michael Bush that he is starting Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
But if a sprained right ankle keeps Matt Forte off the field as it has so far this week, Bush is eager to step in and make his first start as a member of the Bears’ backfield.
“I’m always ready to go,” Bush said Wednesday. “That’s been my M.O. for a while.”
On the topic of letter abbreviations, the Bears could use a W, like, ASAP.
Much has been made about frequent pass-rush pressure against Jay Cutler and his response to it during Thursday’s 23-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. One of the best ways to protect Cutler is to establish the run, which means that Bush and teammate Kahlil Bell could play a more prominent role if Forte cannot start.
Meanwhile, the Rams could be ripe for allowing big plays on the ground. St. Louis finished second-to-last last season with 152.1 rushing yards allowed per game, and a revamped unit is No. 21 this season with 129.5 rushing yards allowed per game.
Cutler said Bush had the skills to lead the Bears’ ground game if necessary.
“He’s not Matt, but he’s going to give us a great running attack,” Cutler said. “He’s really smart in the pass protection. He catches the ball terrific out of the backfield. We’re not going to miss much by putting him in.”
Bush, 28, excelled in a starting role with the Oakland Raiders last season after teammate Darren McFadden went down because of a foot injury in Week 7.
In his final nine games with Oakland, Bush ran for 1,047 yards from scrimmage (740 rushing, 307 receiving) to go along with five touchdowns. His greatest performance came in Week 10 against the San Diego Chargers as he carried the ball 30 times for 157 yards and a touchdown while adding three catches for 85 yards.
All of that helps to explain why Bush chuckled when he was asked whether he looked forward to showing off his skills as a possible starter in Week 3.
“Ain’t nothing to show,” Bush said. “I’ve done it. Ain’t nothing to show.
“I’m in my fifth year now. You guys have seen me backing up McFadden. When it was my turn to play, I did what I was supposed to do. It might come in different ways, but I’m getting the same amount of production. It’s football.”
If the Bears prefer to keep Bush in his role as a short-yardage and goal-line back, that could mean a heavier workload for Bell on first and second downs. Bell started the Bears’ final three games last season because of injuries to Forte and Marion Barber, and he impressed coaches by averaging 4.4 yards a carry.
Both Bush (6-foot-1, 245 pounds) and Bell (5-foot-11, 219 pounds) are capable of running between the tackles as well as catching passes in the open field, but undersized running back Armando Allen (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) figures to remain in a reserve role. Allen was stuffed for a 3-yard loss on his only carry Thursday.
With or without Forte, Bush said, the game plan remained the same.
“We haven’t changed much,” Bush said. “I don’t think it’s going to change at all. That’s why they told me when I came here: ‘Nothing’s going to change. We’re looking for a guy to keep the offense rolling when he’s out.’ ”
Up next: Rams at Bears
When: Noon, Sunday
TV/Radio: FOX/780 AM
Line: Bear by 7 1/2