The fan-favorite safety enters his second stint with the Saints as a key piece to their success.
January 11th, 2014. The day of the NFC Division Game between the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints. It’s also the day the world was introduced to Rafael Bush. Midway through the first quarter, the Seahawks were driving down the field. A pass from Russell Wilson intended for Percy Harvin was dropped and well-defended by Bush. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called on the Saints safety, giving the Seahawks 15 yards.
But that play set a tone for New Orleans’ defense, and gave Bush a presence on that side of the ball. The Seahawks scored 23 points in that game (only 7 in the second half), and both were well-below their season averages. That early hit by Bush made coaches and players ecstatic and hungry, giving the Saints a trend that is still here today.
Bush went undrafted in 2010 after playing college football at South Carolina State. Two days later, he was signed by the Atlanta Falcons. He spent his first season mostly on the practice squad. He played one season in Denver before arriving in New Orleans for his first stint with the Saints. From 2012-2014, Bush had a very impressive 3 season stretch. He compiled 115 total tackles and an interception in 39 games. After the 2013 season, he signed a 2-year, $4.5 million offer sheet with the Falcons. The Saints matched. His injury-plagued 2015 season made his departure less dramatic.
Luckily, Bush had his best overall season in 2016.
Bush signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Lions on March 12, 2016. He compiled 53 total tackles and 2 interceptions (1 for a touchdown) in 16 games. His play helped Detroit make it to the playoffs, who, ironically, lost to Seattle.
In other words, the Saints are getting a physical safety in his prime coming off of his most productive season. And, just as importantly, the team is getting depth at a position they desperately need production from. Bush understands the culture of the Saints and now possesses veteran knowledge that will help young defensive backs on and off the field.
A tone-setting, possibly crucial safety helps bring New Orleans to the next step of competing. Guys like Kenny Vacarro, Vonn Bell and Roman Harper need to take plays off, and Bush makes the coaching staff very confident in their bench. Bush might even flirt with starting some games, especially, again, for how he is able to set the mood for defenses. The Saints are fortunate to have Bush back, and his role in training camp will be something to keep an eye on.