An Adam Gase pet peeve — not studying playbook — is non-issue with Miami Dolphins TE Durham Smythe

Dolphins rookie tight end Durham Smythe talks to the media.

DAVIE — The Dolphins have needed an upgrade at tight end for ages, but when they took Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe in the fourth round — the second tight end they selected in the draft — an obvious question was why take a guy who had only 15 receptions his senior season?

One clue can’t be sound in his stats with the Irish or his draft bio, but in a tirade Dolphins coach Adam Gase went on after getting blown out by the Baltimore Ravens on national TV last season. That’s when Gase said too many players weren’t committed enough to put in time studying their playbooks after they left the facility.

Smythe doesn’t appear to fit that profile in the least.

“In college I was the guy who kind of used the mental part of the game as a strength,” Smythe said Monday. “I knew the playbook extremely well. I could go out and play extremely fast because I knew it so well.”

He doesn’t know the Dolphins’ playbook extremely well. Which isn’t a criticism at all. Find an NFL rookie who claims to know his playbook inside and out in June and you’ve found a dreamer. Smythe knows what he doesn’t know, and he’s doing all he can to correct that.

“It’s all about going out there, taking a lot of time outside of the building to get familiar with the playbook and kind of just roll with the punches,” he said.

Before the newcomers even arrive in Davie for rookie camp and OTAs, the Dolphins send them the playbook — or so it appears.

“When you first get it, it only has a couple of installs,” Smythe said. “So you’re, ‘OK, I’ll be able to handle this.’ And then you come in the first day and they throw you a stack that’s just as big as the stuff you’ve gone over for two weeks.

“Like I said, it’s just about rolling with the punches.”

Smythe said it’s not usual for coaches to throw something new at them early in the morning, expect players to practice it later that morning, then play catch-up to figure out what’s really going on at night.

“You try to play fast and then you go home at night and try to focus on it then,” Smythe said.

Smythe said the concepts are similar to what the Irish ran, but there is one major difference.

“Volume,” he said. “Big time.” The Dolphins’ playbook, he estimated, is “maybe like 100 percent bigger.”

The scouting book on Smythe was that he was the anti-Mike Gesicki, the Dolphins’ second-round pick. Smythe’s strength is blocking, not receiving. Gesicki caught 57 passes and scored nine TDs last year.

But Smythe thinks he may have caught everything thrown his way thus far in Davie.

“I feel like with the offense we ran at Notre Dame and kind of our philosophy of what we wanted to do, obviously I wasn’t targeted as much, didn’t have as many catches,” Smythe said. “I think that’s something that I tried to show throughout the pre-draft process, through the Senior Bowl and things like that. It’s something I could do as well. I think they have confidence and I do as well.”

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Reports: New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman suspended 4 games, including vs. Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman (11), is held by the face mask by Dolphins cornerback Tony Lippett (36) as he scores a touchdown in January 2017. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

The Dolphins may have caught a break Thursday amid reports that New England receiver Julian Edelman is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs — a penalty that would keep him out of the Patriots’ Sept. 30 home game against Miami.

Edelman, 32, missed the 2017 season because of an ACL injury. He also would miss games against the Texans, Jaguars and Lions.

The penalty is being appealed.

In 12 games against Miami, Edelman has victimized the Dolphins more than any other NFL team, recording 731 receiving yards. He also has 55 catches against Miami (most of any team other than the Jets) and five touchdown passes (tied for the most).

The Patriots, of course, still have tight end Rob Gronkowski, who skipped voluntary workouts and is eyeing a new contract, but targets for Tom Brady are wearing thin.

Among the losses this offseason is Danny Amendola, who caught 61 passes for 659 yards in 2017 but was signed by the Dolphins.

Brandin Cooks, who had 1,082 receiving yards, was traded to the Rams.

Running back Dion Lewis, who caught 32 passes for 214 yards, signed with the Titans.

The Patriots still have former Dolphin Chris Hogan, who had 439 yards and five TDs last year, and running back James White, who accounted for 429 receiving yards and three TDs.

Edelman’s absence could benefit former Miami Hurricane Braxton Berrios, selected by New England in the sixth round, 210th overall.

The Patriots also have Malcolm Mitchell, a fourth-rounder who missed last season with a knee injury and also missed some voluntary workouts this summer.

Newcomers also include Jordan Matthews, who had 282 yards for the Bills last year, and Cordarrelle Patterson, the ex-Vikings first-round pick held to 309 yards for the Raiders in 2017.

Dolphins believe they have three backs who can play every down

Think fast: Who’s really the king of speed on the Dolphins?

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Kenny Stills is exactly what the NFL needs, so why is it alienating him?

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

Miami Dolphins believe they could have three RBs who can play all three downs

Dolphins running back coach Eric Studesville and Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake speak to the media during Dolphins OTAs. (Miami Herald)

DAVIE — The Dolphins are entering the home stretch of their offseason workouts, days away from R&R, but already, a common thread is emanating from the training facility that could have a major impact on what we see this fall.

Kenyan Drake will be the featured back, veteran Frank Gore is the No. 2 man and behind them is Kalen Ballage, a fourth-round pick out of Arizona State. No news flash there. But put your ear to the ground and you’ll recognize a theme developing that can be labeled this way:

Three backs, three downs.

More and more, Dolphins coaches have been pointing out that all three of these guys can run, catch and block. While it would be unrealistic to think the Dolphins will roll their backs the way they’ll roll defensive linemen, it’s a huge benefit to Adam Gase, who likes versatile backs, to know he won’t be tipping his hand by putting any particular back in on any given down.

“You really like a guy that can play on all three downs,” new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said.

Assuming all three stay healthy, there can be no doubt Drake will get the majority of the carries, but do not assume that just because Gore is 35 and did little in OTAs, the equipment guys won’t need to wash his No. 21 jersey on Sunday evenings. Hardly. Gore ran for 961 yards before a talent-challenged offensive line in Indy last year, had 245 receiving yards and is two years removed from a 1,025-yard rushing season.

Frank Gore had 1,206 yards from scrimmage for Indianapolis last season. (Sam Riche/TNS)

“Frank Gore set the standard of what backs do in (pass) protection,” coach Frank Reich said as the Colts were preparing to part ways with him. “I remember hearing stories when I’d be coaching for other teams that Frank Gore could run the protection meetings, that he could make the protection calls for the quarterback.”

A pretty valuable guy to have around if your QB has been on the shelf since the Obama administration, wouldn’t you say? The Colts somehow overlooked that, but don’t think the Dolphins will make the same mistake when it comes to keeping Ryan Tannehill healthy.

“He shall be missed,” tweeted one guy on the Colts who’s feeling the loss of Gore: QB Andrew Luck.

Ballage has room for growth in this department. All rookies do. At 6-feet-3 and 230 pounds, he’s the tallest and heaviest back on the team. So the tools are there.

“He’s a guy that shouldn’t have a lot of limitations,” Loggains said.

Ballage’s background backs that up. In addition to running back, he grew up playing quarterback, receiver, safety and linebacker.

Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

“I did everything,” Ballage said. “I am a running back, but I consider myself a football player. I feel like I’m somebody that can do everything pretty well.”

He added, “I don’t think they would’ve picked me if I didn’t fit that mold” of an Adam Gase running back.

The Dolphins in recent seasons have wrestled with run-pass balance but should achieve it in 2018. Not all passing plays are created equal, though, because Gase can treat short tosses as extended handoffs, which is where this trio’s skillset also comes in.

Gore caught 29 passes for 245 yards last year and in his career has had as many as 485 receiving yards in a season. Drake caught 32 for 239 yards and two scores last year. In 2017, Ballage had odd totals of 20 catches for 91 yards, just a 4.6 average, but in 2016 he caught 44 passes for 469 and a 10.7 average.

“Drake is a guy that can play all three downs,” Loggains said. “I think Kalen fits that vision as well. He can catch the football. He can be a weapon out of the backfield, but he’s also big enough in pass pro. Where he needs to grow is the NFL game and nickel protections and learning that stuff, because that’s obviously the biggest transition in the NFL is going in there and you’ve got odd defenses and you’ve got spinners and floaters and trap blitzes and all of those things. He’s got to master that stuff.”

Think fast: Who’s really the king of speed on the Dolphins?

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Miami Dolphins’ Darren Rizzi: Kicking battle is even; Raekwon McMillan still on special teams

Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi explains some of the options coaches have on special teams.

DAVIE — A day after Jason Sanders was perfect on field-goal tries, Greg Joseph had four misses during Dolphins mini-camp.

Don’t read too much into that, says Darren Rizzi, the special teams coordinator and associate head coach.

Rizzi’s point was that behind closed doors that the media haven’t seen, the kicking battle has been much closer than when kickers have been in full view.

“It’s been about even,” Rizzi said Wednesday.

It didn’t appear that way after Sanders, drafted in the seventh round out of New Mexico, went seven-for-seven and Joseph, an undrafted free agent from Florida Atlantic, had four misses, including some from very makable range. Rizzi pointed out that Joseph earlier had a near-perfect day, so there’s a long way to go before those two are sorted out.

“What everybody has seen is both guys have really good leg strength,” Rizzi said. “Both have a lot of pop on the ball. Both have really gotten the ball up well, meaning elevation on the ball.”

Both performed well on kickoffs, Rizzi added.

Because they’re rookies, they’re trying to impress coaches while Rizzi is “tweaking” their mechanics. It could be “something as simple as an inch or two on your plant foot,” Rizzi said, but the effects of those changes won’t come overnight.

That’s not all Rizzi has to concern himself about.

Raekwon McMillan, whose rookie season last year was wiped out by a knee injury while covering a punt on his first play of preseason, now is a starting linebacker.

So now what? Is he still on special teams? Is it too risky?

Rizzi said it’s “the 10,000-pound elephant in the back room because he got hurt last year. I get it. His first play in the NFL, he ran down a punt and got injured. Rookie linebackers play on special teams. It doesn’t matter if they’re drafted, undrafted, first round, second round, 10th round, 90th round. Rookie linebackers and defensive backs and running backs and receivers, they play special teams.”

McMillan isn’t a rookie now, and he won’t play on every aspect of special teams, but he’ll still be used on some, Rizzi said. The injury history won’t factor into coaches’ thinking.

“We’re going to coach everybody the same,” Rizzi said. “Listen, it was a really unfortunate thing that happened to him last year. To his credit, he’s jumped right back in. He’s doing our drills. He’s doing everything. … Everybody is going to have some type of role on special teams. We’re not going to start making decisions based on injury history. You’re not going to have anybody left on the field.”

When the Dolphins traded Jarvis Landry, they lost one of their punt returners. Odds are Jakeem Grant will continue to handle his share of those duties, with newcomer Danny Amendola the favorite to be the “safe” return man when the Dolphins are backed up. Several others, including Albert Wilson and Drew Morgan, are getting looks.

Between all the newcomers and rule changes to make kickoffs safer, the Dolphins have miles to go before sorting out the kick-return unit. Options deep include Wilson, Senorise Perry, fourth-rounder Kalen Ballage, Torry McTyer and last year’s top return man, Grant.

“We’re still trying to fudge with this new rule a little bit,” Rizzi said. “ … We’re trying to kind of figure out how we’re going to do it, whether it’s one guy deep, two guys deep.”

Even Parker is a critic of Parker these days

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Everyone, including Miami Dolphins’ DeVante Parker, is a critic of Parker’s

Dolphins coach Adam Gase interacts with DeVante Parker during OTAs. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — For anyone, it would constitute a decent shot delivered via social media. For a man of as few words as DeVante Parker, it was a shot heard ’round South Florida.

When former Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers was asked on the Five Reasons Sports Network podcast to rank current receivers on the team, he listed Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson and Parker, in that order.

“Nobody cares about his opinion,” wrote Parker, who has a bit of history with Chambers.

It was somewhat understandable in the sense that when it comes to DeVante Parker — especially in summertime — there always are more opinions floating around than there are receptions for the man himself.

The consensus, of course, is that Parker’s potential and Parker’s production are acres apart. The funny thing is that Wednesday, another voice chimed in to agree.

Asked how he’d describe his play over his first three years in the NFL, Parker said, “It was not where I wanted to be. It’s as simple as that.”

Parker caught 57 passes for 670 yards and one touchdown last season. In his career, he has yet to have a year with more than 60 catches, 750 yards or four touchdowns. His per-season averages: 46 catches, 636 yards.

But if it’s June, it must be time for someone to say this year finally will be the year everybody sees the real DeVante Parker. Last year, it was offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen predicting a “gigantic” 2017. Wednesday, it was fellow receiver Jakeem Grant.

“His approach this year is way different than it was last year,” Grant said. “I think he definitely wants to go out there and prove to people he’s better than what people think he is. He’s not just a guy that continually gets hurt or whatever. … He’s going to be great. Without doubt, he’s going to be one of the top receivers in this league.”

Alongside Julio Jones and Antonio Brown? Grant also said he calls Parker “a beast.” At 6-feet-3 and 212 pounds, Parker should be just that, especially in the red zone. Instead, he has dealt with ailments such as hamstring and ankle problems that seem more prevalent than they really are.

Believe it or not, Parker has missed only five games in his career. But the injuries have limited him to 24 of a possible 48 starts — hardly what you’d expect of a first-round draft pick. As they’ve shortened his Sunday afternoons, they’ve restricted him to just three 100-yard games, none in 2017.

“Stay healthy,” he said of his top priority for 2018.

If you’re wondering if Parker believes he has changed anything in his offseason approach to curtail nagging injuries, think again.

“Right now I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing that’s been working,” Parker said.

Ironically, Grant’s boast came just a week after receivers coach Ben Johnson said the team was working to tone down expectations for Parker.

“The biggest thing for him is we were making these giant claims about him last year,” Johnson said. “Right now, it’s one day at a time.”

Outside of that jab at Chambers on Twitter, Parker seems content to just tune into those around him.

“You’ve just got to not worry about what anyone says outside the building,” Parker said. “They know what’s really going on on the inside.”

Parker said he’d like to get 1,000 yards this season and “a few touchdowns.”

Although he stopped short of claiming Chambers should have ranked him the best receiver on the team, Parker added, “I’m with Jakeem every day, so he sees me working, knows what I’m doing.”

The Dolphins showed faith in Parker in April when they picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. It’s worth $9.5 million, but it’s guaranteed only if he gets injured. Otherwise, Parker could be thrust in a position of having to prove he’s worth $9.5 million next year.

The ideal way to avoid sweating that out: have a gigantic year.

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Minkah Fitzpatrick on how Nick Saban, Adam Gase compare

Kenny Stills is exactly what the NFL needs, so why is it alienating him?

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

Miami Dolphins’ Minkah Fitzpatrick gets ‘extra motivation’ knowing Stephen Ross may need convincing

Miami Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick during offseason workouts at Nova Southeastern University. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — The word following the NFL Draft was that if there was one thing the Dolphins could be assured of, it’s that first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick wouldn’t need anyone lighting a fire under him. His work ethic at Alabama was held in that much esteem.

But the fire was lit anyway.

Shortly after the draft, a report in The Boston Globe indicated that when the Dolphins were on the clock with the No. 11 overall pick, one person in Miami’s draft room needed a lot of convincing that Fitzpatrick, a defensive back, was the right way to go.

That person was owner Stephen Ross.

“Yes, I heard about it,” Fitzpatrick said after practice Tuesday. “He’s a businessman, so he’s going to see the business side of everything. It’s a little extra motivation just to prove that I am the worthy pick, that I deserve to be here.”

Fitzpatrick said he has not spoken with Ross since the draft. That includes Tuesday, when Ross watched the workout from the sidelines at Nova Southeastern University.

Because the Dolphins have Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald at safety, Fitzpatrick’s selection wasn’t based on need, but raw talent. Fitzpatrick said he has worked at strong safety, free safety and nickel back, with his reps split evenly among the three. The Dolphins have not yet experimented with all three on the field, which we’re expected to see in the fall.

Regardless of where the versatile rookie lines up, he’s already making an impression.

“He’s done a good job,” coach Adam Gase said. “He’s got his hands on a lot of balls. He’s had a few interceptions. He seems to be all over the place. He has a great motor, a great work ethic. It’s great seeing him progress since that first day. You can tell he takes this very serious and this is what he does. He puts everything he has into this.”

If Gase sounds like Fitzpatrick’s college coach, Nick Saban, there’s a good reason. Gase said nothing that Fitzpatrick has done has been a surprise. Rather, it’s validation for what Saban told the Dolphins before they drafted him.

“Any time Coach Saban has the amount of praise that he had for him … ,” Gase said. “You don’t hear him say a lot of the things that he said.”

Last week, Fitzpatrick signed his four-year, $16.4 million rookie contract, including $10 million guaranteed. It was cause for celebration for a lot of players. Not Fitzpatrick.

“Not really,” he said. “I just signed the contract and that was it.”

He plans to buy a house — “I’m going to need somewhere to live” — but otherwise, his focus isn’t on his wallet.

“It is a goal but it’s not the end goal,” Fitzpatrick said. “I said it earlier in the media, I didn’t come here just to be a first-round pick. I wanted to be a great player here and establish a great legacy here. So you’ve just got to keep on pushing it.”

Pushing, as in making interceptions and breaking up passes whenever he gets the chance.

“Have I been counting them? Yes. I think every DB counts them,” he said. “I’ve got two picks and a couple of pass breakups. That’s it, really. I’m just doing my job.”

That might not sound bad for most rookies. Fitzpatrick sounds determined to not be like most rookies.

“Once I get more and more comfortable, it’s just going to keep going up and up,” he said.

Maybe then, he won’t have to have that talk with Stephen Ross.

Maybe then, Ross will have all the evidence he needs.

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‘New tradition’ needed? Miami Dolphins say White House visits can be a thrill

President Donald Trump honors the national championship team, the Alabama Crimson Tide, during a White House ceremony in April. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

DAVIE — When the Alabama Crimson Tide visited the White House after winning last season’s national championship, Minkah Fitzpatrick was nowhere to be seen.

Controversy?

Hardly.

Fitzpatrick was on a pre-draft visit with the 49ers in San Francisco.

“It was scheduled in,” Fitzpatrick, a defensive back drafted by the Dolphins in the first round, said Tuesday. “Not lined up very well.”

If not for the visit, it appears likely Fitzpatrick would have been mingling with teammates, coach Nick Saban and President Donald Trump. Fitzpatrick had been to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. once before, after his freshman season, and enjoyed meeting Barack Obama.

“It was cool,” Fitzpatrick said.

“We flew up to the White House, got a little tour of one of the wings of the White House. We sat in his library, checked it out, looked at some books and Obama came into this one room. I shook hands with him. He talked with us for a little bit, took some pictures and then there was like a little ceremony at the end. Overall, it was a great experience.”

But it’s one the Philadelphia Eagles won’t have, now that Trump canceled the traditional visit and some Eagles players indicated they weren’t going to attend anyway. It has caused a national flap over what for years had largely been a traditional, non-partisan celebration of American sports.

“I would love to do that because it’s the result of you winning a championship,” Dolphins cornerback Tony Lippett said.

“But the rest of it, I don’t really know,” Lippett added, referring to the political controversy between Trump and NFL players who kneel during the anthem to protest social injustice. Ironically, none of the Eagles was kneeling during the anthem last season.

Dolphins defensive end Charles Harris said he doubts many athletes consider White House visits motivation during a season.

“I’m trying to win each and every day,” Harris said. “So that’s not a part of anybody’s mental (approach). That’s something that comes with it. After you get to the highest platform and you win, then that’s on your mind.

“But when you’re on the bottom, you aren’t thinking about that.”

We’ll start to learn soon enough if the nixed Eagles trip is an aberration. The Stanley Cup Final is nearing a conclusion, so imagine if the Capitals close out the series with Las Vegas but aren’t invited for a crosstown celebration ceremony.

Imagine if this tradition is ending, period.

“I don’t know,” Lippett said. “Guess you’d have to find a new tradition, I don’t know.”

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Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

Miami Dolphins’ Andre Branch blames 2017 season on complacency

Dolphins defensive end Andre Branch during organized team activities Wednesday. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Two days, two defensive veterans, one conclusion.

A major reason the Dolphins’ defense didn’t set the world on fire last season was because it didn’t have much fire itself. Cornerback Bobby McCain said so Tuesday, and on Wednesday, defensive end Andre Branch seconded that narrative.

“There’s a sense of urgency now,” Branch said. “Last year was kind of complacent for us.”

Compare that to what McCain said.

“Personally, I feel like we lost a bit of fire,” McCain said. “We lost that spark to get us going. … We lost that … ‘Your back is against the wall, go get it.’ The year before, if the offense makes a turnover, OK, boom. The ball is on our own territory on the 20-yard line, let’s stop them to a field goal.’ We kind of lost that go out and get it, go out and make a stop (attitude).”

The defense ranked 16th in the league last season, which actually represented an improvement over the No. 29 ranking the year before. But it’s nowhere near what the Dolphins paid for — especially when Ndamukong Suh was around — nor is it what they need if they continue to be offensively challenged.

Branch, for one, expects coordinator Matt Burke’s unit to be much improved in 2018.

“We know what we have,” Branch said. “We can’t make excuses now. It’s time to really live up to that and put on.”

Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux was asked to compare this offseason to last year, when he was a rookie.

“This one is intense,” he said.

Godchaux attributed some of it to new line coach Kris Kocurek’s style.

“He’s big on effort and he’s big on attacking,” Godchaux said. “Last year we weren’t attacking as much.”

Now it’s a matter of carrying it through the season — and making sure players aren’t bemoaning in similar ways next summer.

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Devastating news helps Frank Bush launch new career as Miami Dolphins assistant head coach

Dolphins assistant head coach/linebacker coach Frank Bush during organized team activities Wednesday. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — It’s possible that the best linebacker at the Dolphins’ training facility won’t make a single tackle this season, won’t break up a single pass and won’t be known to most fans.

Frank Bush is 55 now. Coaches linebackers rather than lines up with them. Isn’t living in the past.

But nobody could blame him if he did.

It didn’t take the Houston Oilers long in 1985 to realize that their fifth-round draft choice should have gone higher. Bush won a starting job as a rookie. Was a guy who, in the eyes of coach Jerry Glanville, “had it all.”

Or at least he did until the third game of his second season, when he collided with running back Mike Pruitt of the Kansas City Chiefs and lost it all.

Bush lost feeling for a few seconds as he hit the ground. A specialist diagnosed a narrow spinal canal and told Bush — who’d never been seriously injured — he risked paralysis if he kept playing.

So Bush went to another specialist.

Then another and another and another. Six, in all.

“I was trying to get somebody to say yeah,” Bush said Wednesday.

This is where it’s important to point out Bush laughed as he said that. He could have stayed bitter over a promising career cut short, but what would be the point? Even then, he had enough of a grasp of the bigger picture that he told a reporter it would be “a total waste of my life” if he risked playing and ended up paralyzed.

“It opened some doors for me,” said Bush, Adam Gase’s assistant head coach. “It’s allowed me to be in the league for over 30 years. I’m not sure if that would have happened if I would have taken another path.

“I’ve made some great friends. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve grown up a lot. I always tell some of my players and some of my friends I’m kind of the epitome of the NFL: You try hard, keep doing what you’ve got to do and you’ll have a long career.”

It’s easy to think this way now. Then? When a guy in a white lab coat is telling you at age 23 your career is over? Not so much.

“I played since I was 6 years old,” Bush said. “It was one of the things that really gave me a lot of joy. I never felt like I was working when I was doing it. At that time I felt like, ‘Wow, this is devastating. If I can’t do this, then what can I do?’ ”

The Oilers quickly made him a scout and he worked his way up, spending time coaching with the Broncos, Cardinals, Texans, Titans and Rams before joining the Dolphins in 2017.

Ask Kiko Alonso, Raekwon McMillan or Jerome Baker about Bush and you might get a blank stare. Most of today’s Dolphins linebackers know little about the player Bush could have been. That’s OK.

“Not important,” Bush said. “What they do is important.”

Bush the coach can be a bit of a sledgehammer like Bush the linebacker. Asked Wednesday about Alonso’s performance in 2017, Bush made no attempt to sugarcoat.

“I’d kind of say it was up and down,” Bush said. “I was expecting a lot more from him. I’m sure he expected more from me. He did what we thought he should do and he can play better. He can play better in coverage. Some of his tackling was suspect; but we’re working on all of those things and I think he’ll be better.”

Oilers coaches in the mid-‘80s weren’t making apologies for Bush’s play. They didn’t need to.

“He had it all,” Glanville said at the time. “Here we are trying to teach our outside linebackers to blitz, shake and bake without contact, and there stands a guy who did that as well as anybody in football,” Glanville said. “He was our best.”

In was an unforgiving time in the NFL. Almost the same time Bush went down, Tim Lewis, a defensive back who had 16 interceptions in his first four NFL seasons for the Packers, saw his career end under nearly identical circumstances after he hit Bears receiver Willie Gault.

Bush and Lewis have compared notes. At least in Bush’s case, he can’t help but wonder what might have followed had today’s medicine been available to them then.

“They have spinal surgery now where they kind of widen that canal out a little bit,” Bush said. “Guys go play.”

Guys like Peyton Manning.

“Every time a guy has some instance and they come back from it, I think about myself and what could have been,” Bush said.

And when a guy like McMillan gets hurt on his first professional play, robbing him of his rookie season, Bush feels that, too.

“Anytime a kid has an injury situation, you kind of feel for him and you’re hoping he can get back from it — what Raekwon’s done,” Bush said. “You’ve got a little bit more empathy for the kids.”

And if any of his players ever get the same devastating news he did, Bush will be there as a voice of reason.

“You kind of live with it,” Bush said. “You’ve just got to focus on something else. What else can I be good at?”

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Miami Dolphins welcome Marjory Stoneman Douglas High football team to OTAs

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill greets players from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High after organized team activities Wednesday. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Ever since the tragedy in Parkland occurred there has been a link between the Dolphins and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Wednesday that relationship entered a new chapter when the school’s football team watched the Dolphins go through offseason team activities before meeting with the pros.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and long snapper John Denney were among those who talked with the Eagles, who last week held their spring game to conclude spring practice.

The Dolphins were among the first to contribute to a fund for victims of the Feb. 14 tragedy that claimed 17 lives, adding $100,000 to the fund. Dolphins players attended a candlelight vigil in Parkland, Hall of Famer Jason Taylor attended the funeral of football coach Aaron Feis and members of the Eagles football team announced the Dolphins’ Day 3 picks on national television during the NFL Draft.

“I think it always helps you,” Douglas coach Willis May said of Wednesday’s field trip. “It makes you feel better. It takes your mind off everything and puts it on the game.

“We hope that especially in football season this year that the whole community of Parkland will come out and rally with us and help us and push us to have an outstanding year and together, we’ll forget about some things and just enjoy the beautiful game of football.”

The Eagles met with Tom Garfinkel, the Dolphins’ president and CEO, and were given a tour of the training facility.

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The visit was an escape from the everyday realities that still confront Douglas students as the school year winds down. May hopes it also was a learning experience, in a football sense, for his players to see the details pros must pay attention to as they work on their game.

“How do you think they got here?” May said he tells his players. “They do all the little things that we’re trying to get you all to do, but they do all those little things and have been doing them for a long time. And that’s what makes them great.

“So our guys see that and hopefully that’ll help them out a whole lot.”

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Column: Sorry, NFL, but one policy can’t make anthem controversy disappear

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Reshad Jones hopes to finish career with the Dolphins

How Ryan Tannehill has already dazzled these new Dolphins

Stills among those pushing back against anthem policy

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Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.