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LAKE FOREST – Michael Bush is joining the Bears, perhaps to team with Matt Forte and give the team two hard and effective runners who can alternate punishing defenses.
Or maybe in a more visible role should Forte hold out after he earlier was slapped with the franchise tag.
Bush played four seasons for the Oakland Raiders, gaining 2,642 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and scoring 21 touchdowns. The powerful 245-pound back had his most productive season in 2011, setting career highs in rushes (256), yards (977), touchdowns (7), receptions (37) and yards receiving (418). He mostly was a backup to Darren McFadden but had nine starts last season when McFadden was injured.
“I was told that the rotation will be very good,” Bush said in a conference call after signing a four-year deal reportedly worth $14 million, with $7 million guaranteed. “I think there are enough carries to go around.”
Forte, who sprained his knee in early December and missed the final month of the season but went to the Pro Bowl, has not been able to get a long-term deal from the Bears. He was given the franchise tag, meaning he will make $7.742 million next season if there is no new contract reached.
Forte went to Twitter to express his opinion of the signing of Bush, saying he had been “disrespected.”
“There’s only so many times a man that has done everything he’s been asked to do can be disrespected! Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last,” his post read.
Forte finished 2011 with 1,487 yards from scrimmage and 997 rushing in his fourth season. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry. He was the first Bears running back to make it to the Pro Bowl since Neal Anderson after the 1991 season.
Bush said he can relate to how Forte feels.
“It’s just one of those things where you want to be rewarded for your success. I understand, but that has nothing to do with me,” he said. “My job is to come here and play ball. If he wants to hold out, I know what he’s going through. I’m just going to be there doing what I’m supposed to do.”
Bush said he also visited the Bengals and was planning to go to Seattle before agreeing with the Bears. Re-signing with the Raiders wasn’t much of an option because there not much communication.
“I haven’t heard too much from them ...” he said, adding he understands the business side of football. “I’m not upset with them.”
Under new general manager Phil Emery, the Bears have been busy. They traded with the Dolphins for talented but troubled receiver Brandon Marshall and they signed backup quarterback Jason Campbell along with special teams contributors Blake Costanzo and Eric Weems.
They also re-signed defensive end Israel Idonije, defensive back Tim Jennings, tight end Kellen Davis, backup quarterback Josh McCown and safety Craig Steltz.