Camp notes: Bush's childhood idol and Chad Johnson's visit
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Youngsters yell his name – “Reg-gie” – when he touches the ball or runs by them during the Detroit Lions’ training camp.
Reggie Bush knows what it’s like to be them. He grew up in California, but he was a Lions fan, believe it or not.
Not because they were such a great team, naturally, but because of one player, his childhood idol.
“I loved the Lions because of Barry Sanders,” said Bush, who was signed as a free agent by Detroit during the off-season to provide a big-play threat at running back. “I wanted to be like him when I was growing up. I followed him his whole career.
“I think just about every kid who was a running back wanted to be like Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith at the time. I was just a huge fan of how he played the game. Just his moves, the juke moves. It was just the way he moved on the field and the way he was able to create separation from people so easily and make them look silly.”
Bush was 14 years old when Sanders made his stunning retirement announcement in July, 1999.
Sanders, at the age of 31, trailed Walter Payton at the time by only 1,457 yards for the NFL career rushing record. Sanders finished with 15,269 yards in 10 seasons with the Lions.
“I was a little disappointed he retired,” Bush said Friday following practice. “I felt like he was still the man. He still could have played at least another five years. I think everybody was, not disappointed in him, but just disappointed that we weren’t going to get to see his greatness on the field again.”
Some of Bush’s prized possessions as a kid were his Sanders football cards that he kept in a notebook.
“I didn’t have enough money to buy jerseys, but I was big on saving football cards,” Bush said. “I wish I still had them.”
Sanders sent a message on Twitter to welcome Bush to the Lions back in March.
“That was very cool,“ said Bush, who signed a four-year contract with Detroit.
Bush hasn’t spoken with Sanders since coming to the Lions, but they had previously met and spoke briefly.
“I told him how big of a fan I was growing up,” Bush recalled. “I’m sure he hears that all the time. He’s a very humble guy, very down to Earth.
“I think I’m really going to enjoy being here and hopefully get a chance to sit down with Barry a few times and just kind of pick his brain a little bit.
“Once training camp slows down and we move out of the hotel, I’m going to try to hook up with him.”
Receiver Chad Johnson, who didn’t play in the NFL last season after getting released by Miami during training camp following a domestic-violence charge, attended the Lions’ practice.
“It brought back memories from a year ago,” said Bush, who was teammates with him during Johnson’s short stint with the Dolphins. “I thought he might be out here trying to find a job with the Lions.
“Chad’s a great guy, good person. I love that guy. Love having him around. He definitely lightens the mood.”
Don’t hold your breath on Johnson joining the Lions, though. He was in town because his daughter was participating in the Junior Olympics at Eastern Michigan.
Johnson, 35, last played in the NFL in 2011 when he made 15 receptions in 15 games for New England.
He hasn’t completely given up hope of making a comeback.
“If it happens, it happens,” Johnson told the Detroit Free Press. “If not, I’m enjoying being a full-time dad right now.
“I’m in ridiculous shape. I’m sure the world knows that. I train like a mad man.”
-- Safety Louis Delmas missed his second straight practice, which came after the Lions had a day off on Wednesday.
Delmas is on a special workout plan designed to keep him on track to play in the regular season despite a troublesome left knee.
“He was a little bit sore, had a little bit of swelling in there,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.
-- Rookie punter Sam Martin sent out the following tweet early Friday: “2:30 am drug test. Not cool.”
-- Cornerback Darius Slay, a second-round draft pick, came out of practice early for the second straight day because of an injured left ankle.
-- The Lions play their first preseason game next Friday at home against the New York Jets.