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Reggie Bush: Star, focal point, workhorse?

Reggie Bush will the be the focus of much attention, perhaps the most attention, on the Dolphins offense this year.

He was a national figure before coming to the Dolphins and remains so now. His importance locally is best understood in that every Wednesday, including this afternoon, when Chad Henne speaks with the media, Bush will either follow or precede Henne in conducting his own press conference.

The attention is warranted because Bush is expected to be a primary playmaker for the Dolphins. In fact, he's going to be asked to make plays as he's never been either in college or the NFL.

That's because the Dolphins, by their own account, are making Bush their lead running back. They're saying he's going to get the ball a lot and in many ways and everyone -- including Bush -- is embracing the idea because if some Reggie Bush is good, well then, a lot of Reggie Bush might be better.

I. Do. Not. Buy. This.

Sorry.

Early on when Bush was signed, I was told he would not be over-used and turned into a workhorse. It didn't fit his injury history, his body type, or his running style.

But lately the talk from the Dolphins is that Bush will get the ball a lot. I don't know if the change is based on something they saw in Bush during camp. I don't know if it's a lack of trust in rookie Daniel Thomas. I hope it's just a smoke screen.

Failing that, apparently Bush is going to get a bunch of touches, with the definition for a bunch changing from game to game and depending on need.

Not wise.

That kind of use for a 205-pound back is not exactly optimal. Oh, there are 205-pound backs that can carry the ball 20-25 times a game. Curtis Martin did it back in the day. But the ones who are successful at it can do it because they never take a solid blow.

Those guys seem to have a natural instinct for avoiding the full-on big hit. They seem to cause defenders to miss even as those defenders are making the tackle, if you get what I'm saying. Nobody ever really blows them up.

Bush hasn't been that kind of runner. He has taken some monster hits in his day. Consequently, Bush has a history for being injured during his NFL career. Bush has been able to play a full 16-game season only once in his five NFL years -- that in his rookie season of 2006.

He played only eight games last season because of injury. He was hurt on and off in 2007 and 2008. There's injury history there. And that is perhaps the reason the New Orleans Saints limited him.

They didn't let him be their starting running back the last couple of years because they thought it was more important to keep him healthy for the important downs rather than make every down an important down. They asked him to come in and specialize in situations to limit carries and hits.

They wanted Bush to be their sprinter, not their marathon runner.

The Dolphins seem willing to have Bush run the marathon. They seem prepared to ride him -- certainly more than the Saints did in recent years. Bush welcomes this, by the way.

But is it smart? Can Bush stay healthy in such a role?

"I mean I don’t have a crystal ball," Coach Tony Sparano said this week. "I can’t tell you whether or not it’s going to be or it’s not going to be. All I know is the guy works hard at it. I’ve been around a lot of running backs in the last several years that have been injured one way or the other. This is a really hard game at that position so people are going to get injured at that position.

"I’m really not concerned one way or the other about that at this particular time, I’m just concerned with finding ways to get the guy the ball. He’s going to be the first runner out of the gate and we’re going to figure out ways to get him the ball. We’ll see how it goes. This guy takes care of his body pretty well. Better than anybody I’ve been around."

Bush took care of his body in New Orleans. And he got hurt a lot.

I understand Miami's need to use Bush more than the Saints (sort of). The Dolphins don't have a franchise QB. They don't have the playmakers New Orleans has. The Dolphins need to use Bush.

But use him too much and you won't have him. Simple as that. Pete Carroll knew this at USC where Bush was not the primary back. Sean Payton figured it out at New Orleans after Bush's second season.

We shall see if the Dolphins get lucky and Bush stays healthy regardless of how often he's used. Or if the laws of physics -- big men pounding on a smaller man time after time will get the smaller man injured -- will force the Dolphins to change.

I must say this: I know Sparano is saying he's not worried about Bush getting injured. That cannot be totally true. His job as a coach is to manage his players in a way that allows them to contribute as much as possible. Injured players don't contribute. The coach must consider the possibility of injury to a player who has been injury-prone in the past.

And then there's this: Bush is another in a line of players the Dolphins have added that come with an injury history. I find it fascinating that a team that depends so much on its players being healthy, so often takes chances on players with injury histories.

This is the club, you must remember, that signed Justin Smiley the year after he blew out a shoulder. And sure enough, Smiley got hurt often during his two-year stint in Miami -- including a shoulder injury that made him lose strength in his upper body, something an offensive lineman needs.

Then the team signed center Jake Grove, who came with a long and eyebrow raising history for getting injured. And, shockingly, he came to the Dolphins and got injured.

Chad Pennington came to Miami with a history for being healthy one year and getting hurt the next. He was healthy in 2008 and got injured and was lost for the season in 2009. Then he got hurt again in 2010. Then he got hurt again in the 2011 offseason.

You as fans and the media sometimes get convinced that a team knows something other teams don't. That is rarely true once a player has a track record. Lions or Tigers or whatever those cats are don't change their stripes. (I hate strongly dislike cats). (Dog man myself). (Great Danes). (Bulldogs).

But I digress.

Do the Dolphins know something about Reggie Bush that tells them he can carry the load of Miami's running game while staying healthy? Do they know something the Saints didn't?

As coach said, no one has a crystal ball.

But we all have a guess.

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