Another day, another key Bears player headed to Injured Reserve. The player this time? Running back Michael Bush:
Roster news: The #Bears have placed RB Michael Bush on injured reserve and have signed RB Kahlil Bell.Bush, 28, signed a four-year, $14 million contract with the Bears in the offseason after four productive seasons with the Raiders. The 6'1", 245-pound back ran for 411 yards over 114 carries (3.6 yards per carry), had five rushing touchdowns, and caught nine passes for 83 yards.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 18, 2012
Bears general manager Phil Emery signed Bush for three reasons (although he'll probably never admit the first two reasons I've listed):
1. As an insurance policy in case Matt Forte were to hold out the 2012 season after all the drama over his contract.
2. To give Forte less leverage in his contract negotiations, as Bush is a starting-caliber back. Forte would eventually sign a four-year, $30.4 million deal with $13.8 million guaranteed, a deal considered a bargain at the time.
3. To be the Bears' primary goal-line and short-yardage back, two areas the team has greatly struggled at in the Forte era.
I personally don't think the Bears used Bush as much as they should have this season, another one of the many complaints I'd have about Mike Tice's first season as offensive coordinator. In ANY short-yardage situation, Bush should've been the running back in the game. That's where he excels. And on numerous occasions this season, Tice chose to get fancy or put another running back in the game, when just handing the ball to Bush and letting him plow up the middle is going to work most of the time.
Bush was active for Sunday's game against the Packers, but never saw the field. When Forte got two carries at the Packers' one-yard line (and was stuffed both times), it made you say, "So why is Bush even active if the Bears don't think he's healthy enough to get one yard?" Apparently, he was active only because the Bears didn't even have 46 healthy players to dress, and must've thought Bush was the most healthy of the group. It's puzzling that the Bears wouldn't have just placed Bush on Injured Reserve before the Packers' game so that they could sign a healthy body to put on the roster, but maybe they initially thought the rib injury wasn't too severe.
Now, the Bears are left with three running backs in Forte, Bell, and Armando Allen that struggle in short-yardage situations, which will just make the Bears' red-zone offense even more worrisome. Mike Tice is going to have to get a bit more creative (if he even can) with playcalls in short-yardage situations.
Bell, who started the season with the Bears, was released by the Jets last week after appearing in three games for them (but did not get a carry). For the Bears in 2012, the 26-year-old had 12 carries for 32 yards (2.7 AVG) and no touchdowns. Bell doesn't have a rushing touchdown in 131 career carries, but does have a rock-solid 4.5 average yards per carry. His main issue has been holding onto the ball, as he fumbled three times over 98 touches in 2011.
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