DAVIE, Fla. – Miami Dolphins practice had ended and the field was mostly deserted Wednesday when coach Joe Philbin lined up for a lunch buffet in the team dining room, glanced outside and noticed one of his players still doing drills.
It was Reggie Bush.
Once all glitz and glamour in Los Angeles and New Orleans, Bush now enjoys a reputation as a hardworking, blue-collar running back eager to break tackles and shoulder the load while leading the Dolphins out of the NFL wilderness.
"I like the way he comes into the building," Philbin said. "He doesn't say a whole lot, and he seems to be serious about his trade. He's a diligent worker."
Bush is also supremely talented, and the Dolphins' new coaching staff is eager to exploit those skills. He had a career-high 26 carries for 172 yards in Sunday's victory over Oakland, and on Wednesday he was chosen AFC offensive player of the week.
The New York Jets are braced to face Bush on Sunday.
"He's doing a tremendous job," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "Obviously we've got to do a great job of getting a lot of guys to him and get him on the ground — put some hot sauce on him, if you will."
Bush won the 2005 Heisman Trophy at Southern Cal, then later relinquished the award because of a scandal involving the program. He was the second pick in the 2006 draft by the Saints and helped them win a Super Bowl, but was considered an underachiever in New Orleans and was traded to Miami last year.
"Everyone thought he was a bust," Dolphins teammate Brian Hartline said. "Yet he was on a Super Bowl team, and he comes here and he has done a phenomenal job."
Last year the 6-foot, 203-pound Bush disproved doubts about his durability, rushing 216 times for 1,086 yards, both career highs. This spring he said he wanted to lead the NFL in rushing, and after two games it appears he might do just that.
With 241 yards, he ranks behind only Buffalo's C.J. Spiller, and he's averaging 6.0 yards per carry.
"He's a fun back to block for," Pro Bowl tackle Jake Long said, "because you never know where's going to pop out or what he's going to do."
Bush said he can become more consistent advancing beyond the line of scrimmage. He strives to gain at least 4 yards on every carry, a tough standard to meet.
"There's still a lot of room for improvement for us in the running game," he said, "which I think is pretty scary because we're running the ball pretty well right now."
Against the Raiders, Bush swept around Long into the clear for a 65-yard touchdown. Even more impressive were the four tackles he broke on a 23-yard scoring run.
"I like being able to show I can be a power runner instead of just a scatback," Bush said.
He bounced outside on the shorter touchdown run, which wasn't the way the play was designed. Philbin and his staff laughed later about Bush's successful ad-lib.
"If he did it exactly the way I wanted him to do it, it would have been a 2-yard gain probably," offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. "The coaching part is that I get him to the line of scrimmage, and then he uses his God-given talent from that point, which he did a great job of."
Fans enjoyed the show — even as they left the stadium, there were chants of "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" And his teammates enjoyed the show during this week's video sessions.
"Watching a guy like that, it's fun," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "A lot of times I don't get to see the whole thing. To go back on film and see what he does is fun to watch. He's an explosive player who takes a simple play to the outside and goes 65 yards."
Still, since joining the Dolphins, Bush does much of his best work between the tackles.
"I remember Reg when he came out of college, and they didn't ask of him a whole lot in that regard," Sherman said. "He was so much faster than everybody else that it was easier to run around them than through them. But when I study the tapes form last year, certainly he did that numerous times, and he has done that for us too."
Bush had 29 touches on a sweltering afternoon against the Raiders, yet during a team walkthrough the next day he bounced around with the zeal of peewee player.
"Like he didn't even play a game," Sherman said. "The durability is what amazes me."
Bush is willing to grind and scrap and carry 300-pound defensive linemen for an extra yard or two, and he's hoping to do that for 16 games.
But his breakaway ability — that knack for the quick strike that turned around the game against the Raiders — is what worries opponents the most.
"He's a threat to score every time he touches the ball," Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin said. "There aren't too many players that fit that description walking around in the NFL."
AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak in Florham Park, N.J., contributed to this report.
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