A reliable backup and key special-teams performer in his first four seasons with the Bears, safety Deon Bush is determined to make an even greater impact in 2020.
"I've been training hard all offseason," Bush told ChicagoBears.com. "I'm ready to go out and compete to be on the field so I can try to help the team the best way I can. I'm definitely ready to take another step this year."
Since being selected by the Bears in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of Miami, Bush has appeared in 58 games with eight starts, recording 44 tackles, three pass breakups, one sack and one forced fumble. The 6-foot, 200-pounder started six games as a rookie in 2016. But his only two starts over the last three seasons came in the final two weeks of the 2018 campaign when he replaced an injured Eddie Jackson.
Bush feels like he's primed to have a breakout year in part because of the experience he's gained since entering the NFL. In four seasons, he has played 629 snaps on defense and 772 on special teams.
"After you've been out there a long time, you get to learn the game," Bush said. "The game has slowed down for me tremendously and I'm just ready to take that next step this year."
Another reason to believe that could happen in 2020 is that Bush is a more confident player—a development he credits to defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend and safeties coach Sean Desai.
"They preach to their players [about] being confident, and that's something that has helped me out tremendously," Bush said. "I feel like I took more of a step last year than the year before because they did such a great job teaching me, 'It's all right to mess up. It's all right to learn from your mistakes. But don't let the same mistake beat you.'"
Bush is expected to compete for a starting safety position opposite Jackson in training camp. Other safeties on the Bears roster include free-agent acquisitions Tashaun Gipson, Jordan Lucas and Kentrell Brice; and returning veterans Sherrick McManis and DeAndre Houston-Carson.
"There's a lot of good talent in our DB room," Bush said. "There are a lot of good safeties. All of us can play. I think the competition that we're having is going to elevate all our games. A big thing for me is not taking a back seat-role type of mindset. I'm coming in there to play and to impact this team in the best way possible. I'm very excited to go out there and compete with the guys."
While most of the focus in training camp figures to be on the open competition for the No. 1 quarterback position between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles, it's not the only starting job that will be determined this summer in practice and preseason games.
"Everybody in that safety room knows that this is a competition," said Desai, who's entering his second season as Bears safeties coach. "We're all coming into training camp with that mindset. We're all coming in to try to make each other better.
"In terms of Deon, he's just got to continue doing what he's been doing—and then do it on a consistent basis day-in and day-out … I think he's smart, he's really smart. He cares a lot, he's really passionate. He's shown that he's really tough and willing to tackle, and he's got really good range in the deep part of the field."
A big thing for me is not taking a back seat-role type of mindset. I’m coming in there to play and to impact this team in the best way possible. Deon Bush
Townsend, a former NFL defensive back who's entering his second season as Bears secondary coach, has been impressed with Bush.
"He is a guy that is super athletic," said Townsend, who played 13 pro seasons with the Steelers (1998-2009) and Colts (2010). "He is explosive. Now it's his opportunity to go out there and make the most of his reps."
While the Bears conducted their offseason program entirely on a virtual basis because of the coronavirus, Bush has been lifting weights and running at his cousin's house in the Liberty City section of Miami since the end of last season. He's been joined by close friend and former college teammate Artie Burns, a cornerback who signed with the Bears in March after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Steelers.
"I've been training nonstop ever since the season ended," Bush said. "My training philosophy is I like to spread it around. I've been doing a little of everything: lifting, running, hitting the track, hitting the hills. I have a nice little routine going. I feel like it was very important for me when [the coronavirus] hit to make sure I keep a routine, don't make any excuses and make sure I'm putting my work in while being safe at the same time."
While continuing to work out in Miami, Bush is counting down the days until he can return to Halas Hall and reunite with his Bears teammates for the start of training camp in late July.
"I really can't wait," he said. "For most of us, this is the longest time we've ever been away from the sport of football. I really miss the guys. I'm ready to get back out there and eager to put in the work with them and start this quest for the Super Bowl."