Packers CB Jarrett Bush is back working with the first-team defense and wants to keep it that way.
By PAUL IMIG FS Wisconsin
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Now that Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush is back to getting the majority of his snaps with Green Bay's first-team defense in practice this week, the seventh-year veteran doesn't see any reason why he shouldn't stay in that spot throughout the entire upcoming regular season.
"It's my time, I feel like, to take on that starting role," Bush told FOXSportsWisconsin.com after practice Monday. "Being here seven years now, I feel very, very confident in what I'm doing. I'm experienced, I've been in different situations, I've been in big games, playoff games (and) the Super Bowl.
"I feel I'm able to lead the rest of the secondary and show them what we're held to as a standard, continue what Charles (Woodson) and Al Harris, what they left behind, and continue to be the No. 1 takeaway defense."
Bush, 28, began training camp as the starter at right outside cornerback and has stayed in that spot on the Packers' unofficial depth charts ever since. But on the field, Bush was removed from that role in place of Davon House, and later, in favor of Casey Hayward.
House, 23, was doing very well during his time with the starters but suffered a shoulder injury in Green Bay's first preseason game. House will be out likely through the end of training camp, at which time the Packers medical staff will decide whether he needs surgery or can play with a harness. Regardless of which option is chosen, House is now a long shot to win back that starting job, at least for the early stages of the regular season.
Hayward, Green Bay's second-round pick in this year's draft, was the starter in the team's second preseason game at home against the Cleveland Browns and went through the ups and downs that most rookies would.
When the Packers were back on the practice field this week after two days off following the 35-10 loss to the Browns, Bush had reclaimed his place with the starters while Hayward stood on the sideline with the second-string defense.
"We're not picking the team today, and we're not picking starting lineups (yet)," coach Mike McCarthy said. "You want to see players step up and take advantage of their opportunities. That was not the case for a large part of our football team this past Thursday, so hopefully that will happen this week."
In Bush's six years with Green Bay, he has mostly been a special teams ace tackler, as well as a cornerback in the dime defense in recent seasons. But in the Packers' home playoff loss last season to the eventual-champion New York Giants, Bush was elevated over Sam Shields in the nickel defense packages. This season, Bush may be taking another step up the depth chart if he can hang onto the starting job.
But as far as Hayward has been told, Bush had continued to retain that starting spot during training camp, despite many of those snaps in recent weeks at right outside cornerback going to other players on the roster.
"At the end of the day, Bush didn't lose the job," Hayward said. "Coach just wanted to see me out there with the ones. It's preseason (and) he wants to see how I run with the ones. I think I did a pretty good job. He thinks I did a good job as well. It's just certain things that I need to correct.
"It's not discouraging. I just want to keep getting better each week."
It seems like this would be considered a demotion for Hayward now that he's back to watching the starters from the sidelines, but he doesn't believe that's actually what happened.
"Bush came into this camp starting and he's been doing a great job," Hayward said. "He hasn't done anything wrong. Coaches just wanted everybody to get some run with the ones."
That's also the way that the situation was explained to Bush.
"I knew it was a competition and everybody was going to get their shot," Bush said. "I knew coming in that people were going to get their opportunity to play, to prove that they can play. Everybody is capable of playing, of starting in our defense."
Bush has three career interceptions and 1.5 sacks. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Bush has finished each of the last three seasons with a negative overall rating, with pass coverage being his weakest area.
"I just have to keep performing to the standard that I've been playing at and everything should play out for itself," Bush said. "I feel strongly about the position that I'm in, the opportunity that I'm given, and I'm going to take full advantage of it. I plan to do that and get to be the starting role on this team."
Last week, while Hayward was still with the starters, his play did catch the eye of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"I think he's got a bright future," Rodgers said of Hayward. "I think he's doing well. I think he's got good ball skills. He's not a burner out there but he understands the game and route concepts. I think he's got a real shot."
Hayward also claimed that he graded out very well when the coaching staff assessed his performance against Cleveland.
"I covered well when I was in press; I covered very well," Hayward said. "Some of the minor things in the off-coverage that I messed up on, one or two things in the off covers. But overall I did pretty good, minus a couple things."
Bush, Hayward and House also have to contend with third-year cornerback Sam Shields, who missed the first two preseason games with an elbow injury. Shields returned to practice Sunday and was immediately inserted into the dime packages over Hayward.
"When you miss two weeks of practice, the first thing you worry about is his conditioning," McCarthy said of Shields. "Schematically, I think Sam is fine there. But a never-ending focus is your fundamentals, and with Sam being a younger player, that's where you just try to lock down and focus on the little things."
But at the moment, it appears that unless a player such as House, Hayward or Shields really step up their play over the next three weeks, it will be Bush who starts at cornerback opposite Tramon Williams when the Packers' regular season begins Sept. 9.