Three years have passed since Calais Campbell’s only in-game encounter with Reggie Bush. So you would think time would dull the memories of Bush’s heroics, at least a little.
Bush, then a New Orleans Saints running back, had an all-world game against Campbell’s Arizona Cardinals in a 2009 NFC divisional playoff game. He had more than 200 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns of more than 40 yards to lead New Orleans to a win.
“He lit us up,” said Campbell, the gifted pass-rusher out of the University of Miami. “He’s a beast. We know he’s a spectacular talent.
“We have to make sure we bring our A-game and shut him down.”
That is, unless Bush’s balky left knee does the job for them.
Bush was held out of practice Wednesday — working on the side with the team’s athletic training staff — and although tests showed no structural damage, his availability for Sunday’s game in Arizona remained unclear.
“I’d tell you right now, I’m playing on Sunday,” said Bush, whose 302 rushing yards are fifth-most in the NFL. “But I’m sure that’s why I’m not the head coach.
“I’m going to do everything I can from a physical and mental standpoint to prepare myself as if I’m playing Sunday.”
Bush added that, in his limited work Wednesday, he felt better than expected. He wanted to return to the Jets game after injuring the knee late in the first half, but the decision was ultimately to play it safe.
As to whether he’ll play Sunday against the Cardinals’ top-10 defense, the final call belongs to coach Joe Philbin and the Dolphins’ medical staff.
Philbin, usually loathe to discuss injuries, made an exception for his franchise player Wednesday. Philbin said he’ll trust his eyes and the practice film this week, and if Bush is healthy enough to cut and withstand hits, he’ll play Sunday. If not, he won’t.
Bush’s knee injury has remained a hot topic not just in Miami, but also in New York. That’s because the Jets were left answering questions about whether they intentionally tried to injure Bush.
Jets coach Rex Ryan said last week that his team was going to put some “hot sauce” on Bush, and linebacker Calvin Pace added to the intrigue after the game, saying the Jets “had to put [Bush] out.”
Ryan and Pace have been in damage control since.
“By no means do I ever want to see anybody leave the field due to an injury,” Ryan told The New York Daily News.
“I think he definitely misinterpreted my comment,” he added. “The next time we play him he’s going to get attention from us because he’s a great football player. It’s almost a compliment.”
Bush didn’t take it that way Tuesday, saying, “what goes around comes around” when asked about Darrelle Revis’ torn ACL on a weekly radio appearance Tuesday. But when asked about it Wednesday, he backed off a bit.
Bush said he didn’t know if the Jets purposefully targeted him, but added, “If my name’s getting mentioned by the head coach, I must be doing something right.”
There’s a reason coaches have his name on their lips: Bush has been by far the Dolphins’ most important offensive player.
Through three games, the Dolphins have averaged 6.2 yards every time he has touched the ball. In plays when he’s not involved, their production drops to 4.9 yards per play. According to Pro Football Focus, Bush gains an average of 2.4 yards after contact on running plays.
With Bush’s heavy focus in the offense, it’s inevitable the game plan changes, depending on his availability — for both teams. Daniel Thomas took snaps with the first team ahead of Lamar Miller in practice Wednesday.
“You only have so many reps in practice, so you have to project a little bit,” Philbin said. “If you’re designing a specific plan, we might not be able to practice that until Friday.
“One injury shouldn’t dramatically alter your systems in either phase of the game, but certainly you have to take it into account.”
You can be sure Campbell will, too.
“Watching film, he’s kind of stepped his game up to a whole other level,” Campbell said. “Reggie Bush, if he goes, he’s definitely their star player.”