Rafael Bush was a Falcon once and came awfully close to being a Falcon twice. When the news came today that he had decided to retire, it immediately brought to mind how close he came to being a starting safety on this team, even if it was only for a short time.
You may or may not remember Bush, but he was a legitimately interesting undrafted free agent the team was lucky enough to snap up after the 2010 NFL Draft. He would spend a year on the practice squad and looked set to spend a second year developing there in 2011, drawing earnest praise from Mike Smith and the coaching staff the whole while, before the Broncos unexpectedly stole him off the Falcons’ practice squad in October 2011. He would go on to spend four seasons with the Saints (most of 2015 on injured reserve and returning in 2017), one with the Lions, and one with the Bills. All told, Bush played in 91 NFL games and started 25, turning in a rock solid career as a key reserve and sometimes starter.
The Falcons could have had most of those years, had they played their cards right, but the practice squad was not an ideal place to stash a promising defender. Had Bush stayed, he would have at least carved out a reserve role by 2012, and it’s possible he might have managed more than that. Bush was a physical, athletic player who the Falcons clearly liked, because they attempted to sign him during that fateful 2014 year when the defensive changes were all about physicality in the first place. The Saints matched the offer, however, and all we ever got to see of Bush in Atlanta was some promising reports from the practice squad.
We wish him well in retirement.