Green Bay Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush (24) during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Sunday, July 31, 2011. Photo by Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
No current Green Bay Packers player has received more criticism from fans over the past five seasons than Jarrett Bush.
Whether it was special teams penalties or getting beat in coverage in the secondary, all of Bush’s faults have been magnified, rehashed and regurgitated over and over again in blogs, chats and talk radio rants.
The funny thing is, Bush is the kind of player that should resonate with the general public for his work ethic, love of the game and quest to get better.
Yes, Bush has endured his share of struggles on the field, but the intensity and amount of criticism directed his way is undeserved.
His coaches and teammates swear by the guy and believe he gets a bad rap.
“I’m just glad he’s on my team,” Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins said. “I can go to war with that guy any day.”
Fans aren’t as willing to forgive Bush for some of his on-field mistakes. What they might have missed, or refuse to acknowledge, is Bush continues to improve and played a vital role in the Packers’ Super Bowl victory.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t throw around a lot of compliments during the early days of training camp, so it was significant that he singled out Bush for high praise following Thursday night’s practice.
“I think he’s having a heck of a camp,” McCarthy said. “Kind of picked up where he left off at the end of the season.”
Bush contributed mightily to the Packers’ Super Bowl victory with his second-quarter interception of Ben Roethlisberger that set up a touchdown.
It will go down as the play of his career. Long hours in the film room paid off for Bush, who recognized the Pittsburgh Steelers pass play and beat receiver Mike Wallace to the ball.
Predictably, some of his critics weren’t impressed, calling the interception lucky and blaming Bush for allowing a Steelers tight end to run free on the play.
Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt set the record straight.
“Jarrett on that play played it perfectly,” Whitt said. “Everybody keeps saying the tight end was running free, but it wasn’t because of what he did. He did the right thing on that play.”
Whitt doesn’t understand why Bush is reviled in some circles because he sees him as a versatile, valuable player.
“JB’s a great young man,” Whitt said. “All he knows is to work hard and try to compete and win. That’s all he knows. That’s the type of player you want to go out and battle with.”
Bush has heard the criticism, but he’s as resilient as they come.
“You do have to block some of that stuff out because you do hear about it,” Bush said. “You can’t really worry about it because people are going to criticize, no matter what happens.
“This is the game I love. They can’t take that away from me. I play with passion. I study my butt off. I do extra things late at night just because I love this job so much.”
Bush’s teammates have heard his critics, too, and they admire how he has performed under fire.
“He’s strong willed,” Collins said. “He didn’t let that get to him. He handled work every day and competed.”
Bush has continued to do that during the first week of training camp. On Thursday night, he knocked down a fourth-down pass intended for James Jones in the end zone, made a crushing hit on rookie running back Alex Green and was credited with a sack on a blitz.
McCarthy termed Bush’s efforts “excellent.” Bush is proving to be more than a special teams ace, although that will continue to be his primary role. He is willing to do whatever the Packers ask.
“I’m just a hard worker, a man trying to do his job the best he can,” Bush said.
Not everyone appreciates him, but Bush can live with that. What’s important is those that know him best have his back.
“Jarrett’s a solid player,” Whitt said. “He knows a lot of different positions. He goes 100 percent. Like we all said, we’ll go to battle with Jarrett Bush because you know what you’re going to get.”
Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.