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Paul Sancya, AP
Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush (21) runs the ball against the Chicago Bears during the third quarter of an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Reggie Bush played at Lambeau Field once before in his NFL career, in his second-ever game, and as he thinks back on that experience now, Bush can hardly remember the running back he was.

He carried six times, gained 5 yards and knew nothing about the position he has played most of his life.

"It was a very, very humbling experience because I was trying to outrun everybody to the sideline, I wasn't reading the hole at all, I wasn't reading defenses at all," Bush said. "I was just out there playing, trying to be a playmaker, and now when I look back, I'm so much more advanced and just my vision, my understanding of schemes, linebackers, where they have to play their gaps and just all the different things that come along with being a running back.

"It's taken a while. It didn't happen overnight and it took a couple years. I would say it took probably a good four or five years before I really had a true, good understanding of just defenses and schemes and how to run the ball as a running back."

Bush said he started to grasp the intricacies of the position right around the time he won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints in the 2009 season.

Two years later, Bush had the first 1,000-yard season of his career with the Miami Dolphins, and now he's on pace for his best season yet with the Lions.

In 2 1/2 games -- he sprained his knee late in the first half of a Week 2 loss to Arizona and sat out the following week's win over Washington -- Bush has rushed for 254 yards and one touchdown. Using his 84.7-yard average, he's on pace for 1,270 yards rushing this season.

Just six players ran for more in the NFL last year, and Bush said "it would definitely mean something special" to top 1,000 yards for the second time in his career.

"I look forward to accomplishing that, and I think we'll do that pretty easy here with the way we run the ball," Bush said. "It shouldn't be too hard. But like I said, I've got to focus on this next game."

The Lions haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Kevin Jones in 2004 and are running the ball better than at any time in the Jim Schwartz era thanks to Bush, having Calvin Johnson at receiver and an offensive line that has become more physical as it has gotten younger.

According to Pro Football Focus, Bush did most of his damage in last week's 18-carry, 139-yard game against the Chicago Bears running behind rookie right guard Larry Warford.

Warford is one of three new faces on an offensive line that now features four players under the age of 30. Center Dominic Raiola, the old man of the group at 34, added 15 pounds this off-season to get more push inside.

"We felt pretty confident going into training camp that we had the right ingredients there," Schwartz said. "We had good competition in training camp. We looked like we had a little more depth. We even cut some guys that I think could contribute. So I really like where those guys are.

"They protected well, they've also opened up some good holes in the running game. Rightfully so, a lot's made of Reggie and the yards he's gotten and the big plays he's got, but there's a lot of times he's into the secondary without getting touched and that's credit to the offensive line."

Bush, who became more of a pure running back during his two seasons in Miami after playing a multi-dimensional role in New Orleans, said it's a credit to Johnson, too.

Though Johnson's numbers are well off his NFL record pace from a season ago, he still demands so much attention from opposing defenses that Bush has run against mostly six-man fronts.

That's something he saw as his career progressed in New Orleans, though he didn't always know how to take advantage of it.

In Miami, Bush said he learned to run with more patience and the value of setting up defenders with a head turn or his footwork, and the Lions are reaping the benefits now.

"We really can't worry about what pace anybody's on," Schwartz said. "But it has shown well, the combination of him and what defenses do. The plays that Reggie has made have been because of the attention that Calvin has gotten and eventually teams are going to have to loosen up on Calvin or Reggie's going to continue to have big days like that. That's a good position to be in offensively."

Dave Birkett also writes for the Detroit Free Press.