If many fans had their druthers, Jarrett Bush might not be suiting up for his 121st game with the Green Bay Packers this afternoon against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In fact, he might not have seen the sunny side of 61.
Criticisms are commonplace in the profession, but know this: it probably wouldn’t have taken the veteran cornerback long to find work elsewhere in the NFL.
No, he’s not Tramon Williams or Sam Shields. Even a fifth-round rookie like Micah Hyde leapfrogged him on the defensive depth chart last summer following a few training-camp practices.
But every time the 29-year-old has ventured into the land of replaceable, something happens to reinforce Bush’s value to the Packers.
For starters, it might have something to do with the fact he knows how to play seven different defensive positions, including emergency linebacker.
“JB can play every position in the secondary,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said recently. “From an understanding and responsibility standpoint, he knows nickel, dime, both safeties and corner. He also can play the buck backer if we needed him to. That’s why he’s so valuable because he gives a toughness to the team, he gives attention to detail to the team. When he goes in, he gives everything he has. That’s why he’s here.”
It happened again two weeks ago when the Packers decided to station Williams back on the perimeter instead of shifting him into the slot of the nickel and dime sub-package defenses.
With Williams and Shields playing outside, the Packers inserted Hyde in the nickel and Bush back in the dime.
The Packers have won back-to-back games and all Bush has done is generate two tackles, three pass deflections and a game-ending interception in a 22-21 win over Atlanta. He’s played 37 of his 99 defensive snaps this season during that stretch and been targeted seven times, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Whatever role they have me prepared to do, I’m willing to do it,” Bush said. “However they tell me to jump, I say how high. Any role I can take on to help win the game for the team and just be a supportive role as a leader and on this team and defense.”
If there was ever a year where Bush’s job might have been in jeopardy, it should have been this one with Williams and Shields entrenched as starters, Casey Hayward coming off a remarkable rookie season, and Hyde and James Nixon bringing new blood.
Arguably the team’s deepest position ran dry early with Hayward’s season-long battle with hamstring injuries limiting him to three games until he was finally placed on injured reserve. Nixon soon followed after succumbing to a season-ending knee injury.
Bush missed four games with a hamstring injury of his own after missing only two games in his seven previous seasons, but is still finding ways to make himself useful.
Availability has earned him tenure and could keep him in the Packers’ plans for at least another season as he enters the final year of the three-year extension he reached with the organization in 2011.
A fixture on special teams for the past eight years, Bush might not be the entrée on the Packers’ roster, but he’s still as valuable as anything on the plate.
“Jarrett’s played solid all year,” Whitt said. “He hasn’t had a loser performance this year. He’s had limited snaps, but the snaps he’s had, he’s been impactful.”