If Bush can't play, Theo Riddick's an option

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- There was a moment, a brief snippet of time last month, where Detroit Lions rookie running back Theo Riddick allowed the transition to the NFL to wow him.

Just a second, though, and it happened before he ever took a snap. He was actually going to play in a professional football game.

“In preseason, it crosses your mind,” Riddick said. “When you’re out there warming up, like, ‘Damn, it’s my first NFL game in a sense.’ After that, it’s just back to just playing again.”

Imagine what Sunday could be like. Detroit running back Reggie Bush is questionable for the Lions' Week 3 game against Washington. If he's unable to play or is limited for whatever reason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lions turn to Riddick and veteran Joique Bell to help approximate what the former USC star can do for an offense.

Riddick isn’t Bush. He doesn’t have the speed or elusiveness, but their roles are surprisingly similar. Riddick was a Bush-lite when he played at Notre Dame, bounced between running back and slot receiver, the two positions the running backs in Detroit most often play.

“Same role,” Riddick said. “Using my skills in terms of versatility to help this offense. Just to be able to create difficult matchups.

“Obviously being the extra receiver out there and at the same time being a running back. So just making it difficult for a defense.”

At Notre Dame, Riddick ran for 1,169 yards and five touchdowns, while also catching 120 passes for 1,263 yards and eight touchdowns in his career while bouncing from running back to wide receiver and back again.

This is what attracted Detroit’s coaches to Riddick. The Lions signed Bush, who they figured would be the perfect fit for their offense, in March. In the draft, they wanted to find someone who could potentially do similar things.

That was Riddick.

“His versatility,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly told reporters in South Bend, Ind. on Thursday. “From my understanding of talking to their coaches, in particular his position coach, that ability to catch the football and run the football definitely helped him.”

It was Riddick’s ability to make defenders think or miss when he had the ball which caught the eye of Bush when he first saw him in organized team activities. Riddick also had a mentor in Bush.

He saw someone who had once torched the Notre Dame-USC rivalry -- the Bush Push game in 2005 is still one of the most legendary in the series -- and could fit in similar roles as pros.

And when Bush left Sunday’s game against Arizona with the knee injury that has bothered him all week, Riddick saw his first career offensive play, and he was even targeted during it with a pass from Matthew Stafford.

“His maturity level has grown since Day 1, since he stepped on the field here,” Bush said.

“Seeing where he’s come from up until now, he’s a really good player and I think he’s going to be around for a long time.

“I think he has a lot to offer this team and our offense.”

If Bush can’t play Sunday, what Riddick has to offer might show up earlier than anticipated.