The last time anyone saw Raiders running back Michael Bush in a game, he was running over, past and around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the tune of 177 yards in Oakland's regular-season finale last season.

It's mind-boggling to imagine what Bush could have done had he not been the third back off the sideline that game.

That's the daunting chore facing coach Tom Cable as he tries to figure out a way to use Bush in a backfield that also features Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas.

"Each of them kind of has their own little deal," Cable said. "Michael has proven that he can get going right away when he gets in a game . "... We have three starters. The important thing is, getting them each in a role that's productive for this football team because we know all three are going to impact us in a great way."

Bush, 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, is the wild card in the equation, given Fargas was the primary starter the past two seasons and the Raiders selected McFadden at No. 4 in the 2008 NFL draft to be a featured player.

Making matters more difficult for Cable is that neither Fargas nor McFadden distinguished himself as the clear-cut starter last season. Fargas averaged only 3.9 yards per carry, and McFadden's playing was limited by turf-toe and shoulder injuries.

There are those who question whether McFadden and Fargas are strong enough and durable enough to handle a sizable workload.

McFadden tends to excel most on the perimeter, and Fargas' straight-ahead style doesn't lend itself to many broken tackles.


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The thinking goes that Bush's fullback-like build is more conducive to withstanding the pounding of running between the offensive tackles and wearing down a defense.

Twice that came to pass last season, as Bush wore down the Kansas City Chiefs and Buccaneers and finished them off with long touchdown runs.

Bush said his superb game against the Buccaneers speaks for itself.

"I just wanted to make sure to make a statement for myself because I didn't really play that much last year," Bush said, "and I just wanted to make sure that all the Raider fans had something to look forward to next season."

Bush and Fargas say if all goes as planned, there are enough carries for all three backs. Bush said the offense is designed to produce two 1,000-yard backs. Fargas took it one step further.

"We plan on making the playoffs and having an extended season," Fargas said. "There's going to be plenty of carries and plenty of yards out there for each of us. I feel like we can all have great seasons and all complement each other well. Three 1,000-yard backs aren't out of the question."

Bush also is regarded as Oakland's best blocking back, which is critical against blitzing teams such as the San Diego Chargers.

In practice Wednesday, Bush stopped linebacker Ricky Brown in his tracks, snapping his head back in a blitz pickup.

"When Michael has gone in and performed in his limited chances, he has really excelled," Cable said. "You just see his confidence getting better and better and better. When I watch him every day out here, he's physical as a runner, and now he's become physical as a protector."

The Raiders selected Bush with the first pick in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL draft. He slipped from a first-round candidate after he broke his right leg in the first game of his senior season at Louisville.

He spent the entire 2007 season strengthening a leg that required two surgeries and numerous hours of intensive rehabilitation.

Now he's ready to show people that he more than a running back in a fullback's body, that he is talented enough to be an every-down back in the NFL.