Gutierrez: Boss, Bush, key to offensive success

August 7, 2011, 4:36 am
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Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comNAPA -- They couldn't be anymore different. From their physical characteristics to their football acumen to their job descriptions.And yet, running back Michael Bush and tight end Kevin Boss might very well jointly hold the key to the Raiders' early-season offensive success.That both made their 2011 training camp debuts on Saturday only adds to the intrigue, especially with Bush showing up three days after Darren McFadden suffered a fractured eye orbital bone and Boss replacing Zach Miller, the most consistent offensive threat the Raiders have had the past three years after he left for Seattle.Bush, of course, is a familiar face. He's been in Silver and Blackdom since 2007, a "damaged goods" fourth-round draft choice from Louisville who did not play a down that first season as he still recovered from a broken right leg suffered in the Cardinals' 2006 season opener.And therein sat the drama.WIth Bush maintaining a media moratorium this offseason -- one that included an arrest for suspicion of DUI -- speculation grew that he was not happy being classified a third-year player. That he wanted to be a fourth-year vet to reap the financial rewards of the new CBA that had such players becoming unrestricted free agents. Especially since he had not signed his first- and third-round tenders.So 10 days after he could have reported to camp with his teammates, and five days before he would have had to report, lest he be labeled a hold-out, Bush insisted there were no issues. In fact, he was within his rights to report when he did in this most unusual of offseasons, thanks to the lockout and shortened signing period."It's a business part of it," Bush said, explaining why Saturday was his personal D-Day for showing up in Wine Country. "I think it was just best for me to come in at this time instead of stretching it out. I just came in. The sooner I got here, the better I can get in the playbook and the better I can move forward."Rarely has he shown better dance moves on the field.Still, Bush said he never entertained any other offers -- the price would have been too steep for teams in such a rushed time frame, he said -- and signed the one-year tender, worth a reported 2.6 million. He did, however, say he was looking to talk long-term deal with the Raiders when the time is right."I was never a free agent," Bush said. "I had no intention of coming into the season thinking I was a free agent because, bottom line, my first year, I didn't play."I pretty much knew I'd be back here again."If only the Raiders fans had been so confident, right?Because while there is no doubt McFadden is the Raiders' electric lead back, he's hurt and out for at least two weeks. And Bush, who suffered a broken left thumb in the exhibition season last year and missed two regular season games, brings the thunder.He ran for a career-high 655 yards and a career-best eight touchdowns in 2010 and in the season finale at Kansas City, with McFadden out, Bush rumbled for 137 yards on 25 carries. He also caught four passes that frozen day.Which is why his showing up in good shape -- not football shape, mind you -- was good news for the Raiders. Even if he only carried the ball in live drills a handful of times."I felt like I hadn't been playing football for a while," he joked. "But it's O.K. I'll get it back."He won't, however, regain the feeling of Miller and Nnamdi Asomugha as teammates in Oakland."I kind of knew the Nnam situation," Bush said, "but it was more strange not seeing Zach."Enter Boss.At 6-feet-7, Boss is two inches taller than Miller, though he is not as thick in his upper body.He too, though, hit the ground running as Boss practiced in live drills. He made a nice catch in traffic once, but also jumped off sides another time."Kind of learn under fire," Boss said, describing his first practice. "It's maybe the best way, actually, just kind of throw you in there. You hear (the play) called in the huddle and try to process it as quick as you can."It's coming along, and tomorrow will be great to spend some time in the playbook and really get ahead of this thing."The Raiders have invested a reported four-year, 16-million contract in Boss, who has a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants and has caught 119 passes in his four-year career for 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns.Boss said defensive line coach Mike Waufle, who was with him in New York when the Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, was the first person associated with the Raiders to call him.Sounds like Tom Cable dialing up Miller from Seattle, right?But I digress. Boss visited Napa on Wednesday and worked out for the Raiders before heading back to New York to talk with the Giants on Thursday. Friday morning, the deal with Oakland was announced and Saturday, Boss and his surgically-repaired hip, which he says is 100 percent, were on the practice field.Right next to Bush."It's exciting," Boss said. "Whenever you have two backs like (Bush and McFadden) you're blocking for, it makes it exciting. You want to spring that key block that puts them in the end zone. It's going to be a lot of fun to have those two backs."No doubt, Bush feels the same about Boss. At least, he should.