Dealing with punishment part of the game for RBs

Louisville tailback Michael Bush may not be the most objective expert, but he is convinced that running backs take more punishment than any other players on the field.

"You're getting hit every play, even plays when you're not trying to be hit," said Bush, a senior who rushed for 1,143 yards last season, "I guess you can see why [for] some guys at the next level, the average span of a [pro] career is three to four years."

One reason why Rutgers coach Greg Schiano likes to line up senior back Brian Leonard at different positions around the field is to lessen the wear and tear on him.

"I think the running back takes the most punishment," Schiano said. "They are a bit defenseless, and everybody is looking for them. Quarterbacks are more relaxed when they get hit. They don't get hurt as much. They don't know [they're about to be hit]. Running backs are pushing and grinding back there. They are in more positions to get hit."

Bush started only eight games last season. He missed two complete games and parts of two others while recuperating from a sore foot. At 6-foot-3, 247 pounds, he is a much bigger target than the typical tailback.

"Guys hitting your legs, thighs," Bush said, "and they bring all their power into you because you're bigger than they are. As a running back, you try to dish out the punishment before they hit you. A lot of people still say I run high. When I hear traffic coming, I go down. I'm a good goal-line runner. I know how to lean, get weight in front of me and keep driving through my legs."

It's all part of the fun, right?

"You got to take it as part of the game," Bush said. "A lot of guys like to lunge for my legs. A deep thigh bruise gets to messing with your head a little bit. During a tight game, I can break something on one play. The next time I get the ball, I don't feel nothing at all. You don't feel it."

Until the next day. Saturday night is the loneliest night, Sinatra sang, but Sunday morning is the longest morning.

"Most days, I go to the training room and throw my body into the cold tub. Tylenol, Advil," Bush said. Then he added adrenaline to his list of remedies. "All the excitement you have on Saturday makes you forget all the pain after the game."

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.