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Lions' Bush healthy, competing for starting safety spot

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Lions safety Rafael Bush is only concerned about competing with one person in training camp — himself.

In one of the few starting spots up for grabs, Bush, 29, entered camp as the front-runner to claim the strong safety role opposite Glover Quin.

But Bush knows that nothing is given. He ended his past two seasons with the New Orleans Saints on injured reserve after suffering a broken tibia in 2014 and a torn pectoral muscle in Week 1 last year.

“It’s kind of tough mentally on you for the time being away from football but it gives you a different perspective on life, things that you normally take for granted,” Bush said following the Lions’ first padded practice on Sunday.

“It gave me an opportunity to get my mind right spiritually and mentally and come back even stronger.”

After making his debut with the Denver Broncos in 2011 and playing all 16 games as a backup with the Saints in 2012, Bush cracked the starting lineup in 2013. He played in 13 games with six starts and finished with 42 tackles and five pass defended.

Then in 2014, he saw his role expand as he made seven starts and recorded 56 tackles before missing the final six games due to injury.

He started in the 2015 opener before another injury shelved him for the season.

Bush also ranked as the top safety in tackling efficiency rate — missing just one tackle — and second in pass coverage in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Tackling in this league, you don’t want to take that for granted,” Bush said. “Great defenses are teams that can tackle well, so as a safety and being the last line of defense, you definitely don’t want to have that type of hole in your game as far as not being able to tackle. I take pride in being a great tackler.”

Through the first three practices, Bush’s starting experience seems to have given him an edge against Isaiah Johnson, rookie Miles Killebrew and fellow free-agent addition Tavon Wilson as he’s taken most of the first-team reps with Quin. Veteran safety Don Carey is on the active/non-football injury list and has yet to practice.

Bush said the fact he and Quin have the versatility to play in the middle of the field or down in the box makes for a good fit.

“Obviously, Quin is a ball-hawker and that kind of meshes well with me because I can play in the box as well,” Bush said. “I think versatility is always great. It gives you the opportunity to do more schematically, so I’m just trying to make sure I don’t have any holes in my game as far as skill set and just try to be an asset on every down and not be a liability.”

While it’s still early in camp, Bush said he’s not too focused on playing next to Quin, but rather bettering himself and earning the trust of his teammates.

“That’s my main focus right now so they can understand when I’m out there on the field they don’t have to worry about me doing my job, and we can all just trust each other and play a whole lot faster,” Bush said. “My biggest thing coming in is to just buy in to what these guys already have set as a foundation and bringing intensity here as I would anywhere else.”

Twitter.com: jamesbhawkins