Reggie Bush is not who I thought he was. More importantly, Reggie Bush is not really who anyone else thought he was.
Bush came to the Dolphins with a reputation for flairr but not fundamentals. He came as more a reality TV star than an NFL star. He came to the Dolphins as a walking Heisman Trophy highlight but carrying a professional résumé that lacked enough carries or solid work to merit unbroken attention.
Bush came to Miami after being drafted in New Orleans and this says what the Saints thought they had and gave up when they traded Bush: New Orleans took someone named Jonathon Amaya in an almost straight-up swap
Even after last season, when he eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the first time as a pro, Bush didn’t necessarily change how people around the league viewed him.
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“I guess I probably … right, wrong or indifferent, you don’t study other guys a whole lot,” coach Joe Philbin said, “but maybe I had the USC kind of persona in mind — coming from a flashy program and the California concept there.”
Philbin is right. It’s easy to mistake Bush for being mostly about flash and not all that much about dash — something that’s really bad for a running back.
But none of that reputation, none of what we believed, none of what the Dolphins or Saints thought is what Reggie Bush has turned out to be so far in Miami.
When the trade was made, everyone thought the Dolphins were getting a thoroughbred who wanted to run in open spaces and avoid contact.
Who knew Bush could be a workhorse?
The Dolphins seemed to be getting a part-time player as Bush was in New Orleans. Instead they got a cornerstone to their offense.
And the surprises only start with his production.
“He’s a very businesslike individual,” Philbin said. “He’s a no-nonsense guy when it comes to football … . He works extremely hard. He’s quiet almost. I think he’s very well-respected. He’s got good leadership qualities because he leads by example.”
Bush is the hardest-working player on the Dolphins. He’s not one of the hardest-working. He is the hardest-working player on the team. He doesn’t miss practices and after those are over, he’s pulling a sled or running sprints or catching passes on his own.
Philbin joked that after one practice this week, he was eating a hamburger in the team lounge when he looked outside “and [Bush] was still on the practice field working,” the coach said. “So he’s been impressive.”
He has been more than anyone expected and right now he is one of the best running backs in the NFL without any of the diva trappings that sometimes brings.
Bush is second in the NFL with 241 rushing yards, and that impressive 5-yard-per-carry average he authored last year is up to 6 yards this year. But the statistics and the production are only part of the surprise.
This week, Bush was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week. So, of course he soaked in the glowing attention, right?
“Obviously, it’s not just about me,” he said. “This award is about the rest of the guys on the team who all had something to do with me getting player of the week. The offensive line did a great job, the receivers did a great job blocking.
“There were a number of plays that we can look at and point out some really good blocks throughout the game. So it’s really about the effort that we all made to want to run the ball and make that a point of emphasis to help us win the game.”
That effort, however, was mostly all Bush on that 23-yard touchdown — you know, the one where he broke three tackles in the open field and put a move on an Oakland safety that resembled a Tim Hardaway crossover dribble.
And the truth is, the Dolphins didn’t really expect all of this.
A few weeks ago, before he exploded onto this 2012 season, Bush was seemingly being set up as a player who was going to be replaced after this season. He is in the final year of his contract and not only had the club not talked to super agent Joel Segal about a new deal, but also, Miami drafted Daniel Thomas in the second round last year and this year added highly regarded Lamar Miller in the fourth round.
In the world of well-run NFL franchises, that’s how it is done: You acquire a running back. Use him up. Then you let him go before having to spend big money on what is increasingly a diminishing asset in today’s pass-happy NFL.
The Dolphins did that with Ronnie Brown. And that’s what they seemed to be doing with Bush.
But now that course might change. After Bush went off against Oakland, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and Segal talked about having future contract discussions. Call it the preliminary step toward re-signing Bush.
The question now is two-fold:
• Can the Dolphins afford to keep their best player before he hits free agency?
• Can the Dolphins really afford to potentially lose their best player to free agency?
If Bush continues his current trajectory and the Dolphins retain him, it should surprise how their plans shifted. Then again, Bush has been surprising.
He’s certainly not what anyone really thought he was.