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’ Raekwon McMillan: As MLB, ‘I need to know’ the answers

Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan talks to the media Thursday after OTAs.

DAVIE — Raekwon McMillan is one of those rare NFL players who didn’t participate in a single snap last year but isn’t in his first pro season this year. So if he’s not a veteran and not a rookie, where does that leave him?

“Whatever you want to call it,” he joked of how he’d label this year. He settled on calling it “my rookie-and-a-half” season.

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The problem is the Dolphins can’t afford to treat him like a rookie, nor can he afford to act like one. He’s the starting middle linebacker, the guy listening to coordinator Matt Burke’s instructions in his helmet, the guy calling signals to the other 10 defenders.

The leader. “The quarterback of the defense,” he said.

“It all comes with confidence and knowing what I’m doing, being able to tell guys what they’re doing around me,” he said.

When McMillan injured his knee on his first pro play in preseason in 2017, he didn’t use it to take a year off. He spent it exercising his mind — learning the defense — since he couldn’t do much to exercise his body. The test will come when others look to him for direction.

“And when they ask, have a definite answer,” McMillan said. “Not like ‘Oh, I don’t know. Let me go ask coach.’ When they come to me as the Mike linebacker, I need to know.

“A leader isn’t just a title that you get because you’re the Mike linebacker. Leader is a title that you get because you put in the work, day in and day out, during the offseason and leading up until now.”

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Miami Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill credits wife Lauren with getting him through toughest times

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) receives a kiss from wife Lauren after practice at Dolphins training camp in 2013. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Ryan Tannehill had the support of coaches during his long recovery process.

He had the support of teammates and fans.

But the person he leaned on the most, and the one who lifted his spirits the best, was the one you should have guessed.

“My wife, honestly,” Tannehill said Wednesday of Lauren. “Having her supporting me throughout that season was tough. It was a long year. There were some dark times. I tried to stay positive and take it in stride as much as I could and just do the best that I could in rehab and grow and get stronger each and every day. But it’s hard.”

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When Tannehill reinjured his knee in training camp last year, it cost him the 2017 season but may have afforded him a bit more time with son Steel in the first year of his life.

Even so, Tannehill is a football player, and football players want to be preparing to play football. In fact, Tannehill found he missed preparations even more than gamedays.

“It was a hard time for me just not being around the guys, not being out at practice,” Tannehill said. “I was around in meetings but it’s just not the same. You can’t replicate that time of grinding it out on the practice field together and going through the ups and downs of playing games and going through practice. That was the hardest part for me.

“I think initially when you get hurt, you kind of think, ‘Oh, the games will be what I miss the most.’ And yes, I really missed the games. It was tough every Sunday seeing the guys run out there on the field and not being a part of it. But what I miss the most was day in and day out, the grind of the preparation, of competing with the guys, pushing them and trying to make them the best players that they could be, making the offense the best it could be and just driving the offense. That was the hardest part for me.”

As far as Lauren goes, there’s an excellent chance she knows how much he appreciates her. Last year, he got a tattoo on his right arm.

“It’s laurel leaves for my wife,” he said. “My wife’s name is Lauren. Lauren means ‘by the laurel leaves,’ so that’s it.”

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Doctors ‘fully clear’ Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill’s knee for football

Ryan Tannehill says he’s all good. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — There’s no medical reason for the Dolphins to treat Ryan Tannehill differently from any other player on the roster during offseason practices.

He’s expected to practice in all 13 sessions of Organized Team Activities and minicamp, and Tannehill said doctors have told him his surgically repaired left knee is cleared for any football activity. It’d be safe for him to play in a game right now.

“At this point it’s just let it rip,” he said. “Throughout the rehab process, you’re pushing it. I’m grinding it out, I’m running, I’m cutting. I’m doing a lot more agility and movements that I won’t really be doing playing football. The knee has been tested to the ninth degree of pushing it as far as it can go.

“When I’m out on the field, I’m just playing football. It’s past thinking about it or questioning it. Now it’s just go out and do my job.”

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That means the Dolphins don’t need to put constraints on his workload in terms of the amount of snaps he takes, though they will monitor him for any warning signs like unexpected soreness or swelling in his knee. There also won’t be anything off limits in terms of keeping him from rolling out or working on quarterback runs.

He isn’t required to wear a knee brace and hasn’t had one the first two days of OTAs. He’ll do so for protection in games because hits like the original one he took from Calais Campbell that bent his knee the wrong way, but won’t need it during the week. Whether he chooses to wear it for in-season practices will be up to him.

Tannehill initially suffered MCL and ACL sprains, which can include partial tearing, in his left knee in December 2016. Rather than have surgery, he rehabbed the injury and was ready to practice by OTAs in May.

His knee gave out on a noncontact play in August, after months of him and the Dolphins saying they had no concerns about such an issue, and he quickly opted for season-ending surgery. Tannehill said today he views the “train wreck” as a singular injury spread out over eight months since his knee was not as stable as believed it to be.

However, he’s not second-guessing his original decision to rehab it early in 2017 rather than have surgery. Tannehill said he got the best medical advice available and his course was well-reasoned at every step.

“Going back to the process we went through after I first got injured, I got multiple opinions,” he said. “Everyone’s opinion lined up on the plan of action and we followed that plan precisely. Everyone was in conclusion on what the answer should be.

“Going back, I would do it the same way. Obviously it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to… but we sought out the best options we could find and everyone was in agreeance, and the knee was stable. It was just unfortunate the way it turned out.”

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Ryan Tannehill is back, and it’s time for Dolphins fans to believe in him

Ryan Tannehill was thrilled to practice this week. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — Football practice is never more of a chore than in May, when teams hold voluntary-but-not-really sessions to run through plays they won’t actually use for months. It’s already sweltering in South Florida, and Dolphins players who endure these two-hour practices know it’ll be even worse when they hit training camp.

For Ryan Tannehill this week, it’s been pure joy.

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Except for a brief stretch of good health last offseason, he’s been on the sideline for a year and a half. He figured missing games would be the worst part, but watching practice from afar hit him harder. That’s believable considering how enthusiastic he looked this morning, smiling constantly as he directed the offense with poise.

“It’s been a lot of work to get back and put a helmet on again and step on the grass again,” he said in his first public comments since tearing his ACL last August. “I can remember sitting in the cafeteria looking through the glass like a little kid that’s not allowed to go outside and play. I just feel blessed to go out and compete and play and do what I love.”

Watching him run and drop back and go through play-action motions without a hitch —without a knee brace, too — brought back a memory of a much different day in Davie last training camp.

The sight of Tannehill’s knee buckling brought practice to silent halt. Teammates and coaches broke out in a cold sweat. The season shattered before it even began.

Being back this week has been the opposite. Practice has never been drudgery to Tannehill, but he’s enjoying it more than ever. His enthusiasm ripples through the team, and no one needs to tell you how refreshing that must be after a season of Jay Cutler.

“He’s had a really good energy level,” coach Adam Gase said. “When you’re away for a year and you get your opportunity to get back out there, you’ve missed it. Now you have a chance to start over again and get back going with your guys. There’s that excitement. It’s great to have him back out there.”

Tannehill’s return has energized the Dolphins, and surely there will be some sneering at the Dolphins for putting all their hope in a quarterback who’s been around six years without producing any definitive evidence that he’s above average.

But he deserves this chance. It might very well be his last chance, but give him this.

He’s earned it by gutting out the misery of rehabbing an injured left knee only to see it give out on him before ever playing a game.

And more importantly, he’s worth it.

One of the big reasons Gase earned your trust in his first year coaching the Dolphins was his work with Tannehill, a relationship that thrived quickly. By the back half of their first season, at a point when they were still acclimating to each other, that version of Tannehill was good enough to make Miami a winner.

Maybe you dismiss Gase’s reputation as a quarterback whisperer because he had the benefit of coaching Peyton Manning or because of last year’s debacle with Cutler, but don’t deny Tannehill’s progress under his watch.

In his last eight games, he completed 69.1 percent of his throws, averaged 215 yards per game and had 13 touchdowns with five interceptions. That comes out to a 100.1 passer rating, a number that would’ve been top-six in the NFL last season.

He looked good. He felt even better.

“I was finally starting to play really good football,” Tannehill said. “A few weeks before that, I finally got over the hump of learning the offense and really just feeling good about knowing what Adam wants and going out and executing it. It was tough to go down.”

He launched into the 2017 offseason fluent in the offense, and new coordinator Dowell Loggains said after watching that tape he’s convinced Tannehill can be a star. He understands every aspect of the offense, enabling him to steer teammates into the right spots and make the right decisions.

And the way Tannehill approached his time on Injured Reserve helped ensure that last season wouldn’t be a total loss. He was a mainstay at practice and in meetings. Standing next to Gase during games last season, listening to every call, gave him an even clearer vision of what this offense is intended to do.

“Now there’s no question,” Tannehill said. “We’re still ironing out little things here and there, but most of the time I know exactly what he wants when a play comes in … I’d never choose to be in that situation, but I think I learned a lot that’s going to help me the rest of my career.”

Tannehill doesn’t say that lightly, and his potential shouldn’t be taken lightly either. The six-seasons-and-don’t-know-what-they-have joke is too simplistic. There’s a lot to work with here now that he’s healthy and cohesive with Gase and everybody, including an understandably frustrated fanbase, has an interest in finding out what he can be.

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Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill: Notes on first open practice since knee injury

Ryan Tannehill hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2016. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE—The Dolphins got quarterback Ryan Tannehill back on the field Tuesday for his first practice since last summer’s season-ending knee injury, and he was out there again this morning working in the first open session of Organized Team Activities.

Of note, Tannehill is working without a knee brace. He practiced all spring and summer with the brace last year and might go back to it again, but is running without it for now.

He returns as Miami’s unquestioned starter, and beyond getting reacclimated to running the offense, he’s familiarizing himself with a remodeled group of skill players.

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Kenyan Drake has taken over as the top running back since Tannehill’s injury, and the team added new receivers in Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson. Those two replace his most favored target, Jarvis Landry. The Dolphins also have two rookie tight ends, Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe.

On top of all that, this will be Tannehill’s first season without center Mike Pouncey. Daniel Kilgore replaced him in a cost-cutting move, and the Dolphins also added left guard Josh Sitton.

As far as his movement and throws, Tannehill looked the same as ever. He planted strongly on his left leg for throws and worked through all the dropbacks and play-action motions fluidly. His short passes have been accurate over the middle and to both sidelines.

When the team shifted into 11-on-11 drills, Tannehill hit DeVante Parker in stride down the right sideline and put a deep ball on target for Drake in that area as well, but he couldn’t reach it.

Most of Tannehill’s throws were accurate in 11-on-11 work, even with a crowded pocket, and the offense constantly had the defense scrambling in coverage.

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Dolphins plan for QB Ryan Tannehill to go through all offseason practices

Ryan Tannehill should be good to go for all of OTAs and minicamp. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

Any uncertainty about Ryan Tannehill’s health coming off knee surgery has quieted, and he’s expected to practice every day as the Dolphins launch four straight weeks of Organized Team Activities and minicamp.

The team was still working with the medical and training staff a few weeks ago to determine the proper course for him once practice started, and a league source said the plan is to turn him loose for all 13 sessions with no restrictions. The Dolphins will monitor him thoroughly for anything out of the ordinary or any warning signs like unexpected soreness, but they are not scheduling off days for him as of now.

When OTAs begin Tuesday, Tannehill will get his most legitimate on-field work since going down in training camp last summer. He is also expected to speak to the media for the first time in more than nine months at some point during the next few weeks.

Tannehill initially suffered a Grade-2 MCL sprain in his left knee in a December 2016 game and rehabbed the injury in time to practice last May. It gave out on him in training camp heading into last season, and he underwent season-ending surgery.

While the Dolphins moved on to Jay Cutler as a stopgap, Tannehill stayed completely in tune to what the offense was doing by watching practice, sitting in meetings and being on the sideline next to coach Adam Gase during games. He also did a good amount of his recovery training in public view before games and during practices and was running stairs in Baltimore before a game last October.

His progress has been impressive behind the scenes over the last few months as well.

“I’ve seen a guy that’s very confident,” Gase said two weeks ago. “I know he’s excited to get back out there. I know us as coaches, we’re excited to have him out there. He’s just really smooth with the operation that we’ve been able to do as far as what we’re doing in practice or those throwing sessions. It just feels smooth.”

Tannehill, who turns 30 in July, posted some career-highs in his first season playing for Gase and put up an eight-game run in which he registered a 100.1 passer rating before hurting his knee.

Miami is making a sizable bet on him resuming that level of play after opting not to add a proven backup in free agency or draft a promising rookie. David Fales and Brock Osweiler are the main contenders for the No. 2 job, and waiver claim Bryce Petty is the fourth quarterback on the roster.

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Ryan Tannehill’s comeback for Miami Dolphins: Marino, other QBs have rebounded quickly

Everything’s riding on Ryan Tannehill again this year. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

There were clouds of both the literal and figurative variety hovering over the Dolphins on the  opening Sunday afternoon of the 1994 season.

Nobody seemed to know what to expect of Dan Marino, seeing his first action since tearing his right Achilles tendon nearly a year prior.

At least one Dolphin knew what to make of Marino once the returns were in later that day.

“I’m telling you all to kiss his … ,” linebacker Bryan Cox told skeptics about as emphatically as Marino had performed.

It’s a day that comes to mind as the Dolphins rev up offseason training with organized team activities Tuesday, when we could get our first glimpse of quarterback Ryan Tannehill as he attempts a comeback from a second serious knee injury.

Not even the greatest optimist can expect Tannehill to come anywhere close to the magic Marino pulled off in his return: 473 yards and five touchdown passes including a dramatic late score in a 39-35 escape against New England.

If you’re wondering how NFL quarterbacks typically respond from long layoffs, the answer is often, they look more like themselves than you might expect.

Before we start exploring examples from around the NFL, some important semi-obvious disclaimers:

No two injuries are alike, just as no quarterback is like Marino. Besides, while Marino was out for about 11 months, Tannehill will have to shake off far more rust. Assuming he suits up for the opener Sept. 9 against Tennessee, it will be his first meaningful action in 637 days — 1 3/4 calendar years.

Coach Adam Gase has maintained that he believes Tannehill is “ready to go,” and the company line is that the Dolphins expect Tannehill to look like Tannehill, which is a must because this team has no proven backup.

Dan Marino avoids pressure in a game against the Patriots. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

But if Tannehill is storming out of the gate, he wouldn’t even be the second Dolphins quarterback deserving of comeback player of the year consideration. Bob Griese rebounded from a broken ankle to win two Super Bowls, remember.

Speaking of Hall of Fame-caliber QBs, we’ll begin with Tom Brady, who tore his ACL and missed all but one game of the 2008 season. He immediately went to the Pro Bowl the next year, going 10-6 and winning the AFC East. His stats were very Brady: 4,398 yards, 28 TDs, 13 interceptions and a 96.2 rating.

Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers fractured his collarbone in 2013 but came out sizzling in ’14 with 38 TDs and only five interceptions. His passer rating was 112.2, eight points higher than his career stat, which ought to encourage Packers fans since he missed nine games last year with another collarbone injury.

Then-Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase confers with Peyton Manning in 2014. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Continuing on this theme of Hall of Fame QBs being a different animal altogether, Peyton Manning sat out the 2011 season because of a career-threatening neck injury. With Gase serving as his quarterback coach, Manning immediately put up back-to-back seasons of excellence both from a team perspective (13-3 both years in Denver) and personally (37 and 55 touchdown passes, triple-digit passer rating).

That’s not to say, of course, anyone is preparing a bust in Canton for Tannehill. Let’s turn to mortal passers.

Matthew Stafford played only three games of his second NFL season in 2010 because of a shoulder injury. The Lions obviously didn’t have many concerns about it in ’11, because his 663 attempts led the league. His 5,038 yards were a career high and his passer rating was among his best ever at 97.2.

Carson Palmer, a spectator with the Bengals for a dozen games in 2008 after injuring his elbow, put up more pedestrian numbers when he returned (3,094 yards, 21 TDs, 13 INTs). Ditto for Alex Smith, who missed 2008 with the 49ers because of a bum shoulder, then put up an 81.5 passer rating in ’09.

The Dolphins have to hope Tannehill doesn’t stay on the same track as Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, who missed nine games in 2015 with a string of injuries, played well in ’16, but was back on the shelf again in 2017. Same story for Sam Bradford, who suffered two ACL tears and is now with Arizona, in the likelihood you’ve lost track amid his many travels.

For dreamers out there, that ’94 performance by Marino ranks among his best. It was typical Marino. The Dolphins were down 35-32 and facing a fourth-and-5 with three minutes left. Rather than try a 52-yard field goal from the Marlins’ infield dirt, coach Don Shula liked his chances better by putting the ball in Dan’s hands (go figure). Or maybe Dan’s eyes.

In the huddle, Marino told receiver Irving Fryar if he had one-on-one coverage, he’d be going to him, and when they got to the line of scrimmage, Marino gave him the eye that said all that needed to be said.

Thirty-five yards later, touchdown. It was a play and a day for the ages.

“I felt pretty good about what I did,” Marino said.

“Dan’s back,” Shula said.

Come Sept. 9, Dolphins fans can hope for two words coming out of Gase’s mouth:

“Ryan’s back.”

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Can Miami Dolphins DE’s Robert Quinn and Cam Wake force 8 QB fumbles in ’18?

Robert Quinn of the Los Angeles Rams runs with the ball after taking it away from the Dallas Cowboys.(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Since 2012, Miami Dolphins defensive ends Cam Wake and Robert Quinn each have 16 strip-sacks of the quarterback, which is topped by no other player in the NFL during that span.

That means Miami should have fearsome bookend pass rushers, attempting not only to get quarterbacks down this season, but trying to get the ball out of their hands.

Chandler Jones and Ryan Kerrigan have 15 and 13 strip-sacks during that time. Quinn and Wake have each had four or more forced fumbles in a season twice. Is is possible that together they might force eight or more fumbles this season?

“I guess we’re number 1-2 at stripped sacked and forced fumbles,” Quinn said Wednesday. “So if we can do that once a game or twice a game, I think that gives our team a great chance of winning, week in and week out.”

Once or twice a game might be ambitious. But it’s good to have lofty goals.

Quinn prefers to play right defensive end. And Wake prefers left defensive end. And they might very well be Miami’s opening-day starters, with Charles Harris, Andre Branch and William Hayes rotating in.

Quinn and Wake have interacted only once since Quinn came to Miami in a trade. But Quinn expressed respect.

“Always hear about his work ethic, the way he eats, the way he takes care of himself,” Quinn said. “(Wake) earned his stripes. He committed himself. He’s a heck of a Hall of Famer player, whenever he decides. I makes you realize when you have that type of caliber player it makes you want to get back to that level of expectations being great. It’s exciting.”

Quinn is excited to return to his natural defensive end position, after one year at linebacker in a 3-4 defense.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the Olympic but I’ve never seen a sprinter run from a two-point stance,” Quinn said. “Honestly, I think if you want to get the best get-off you’re supposed to be in a three-point stance.”

Quinn explained why he tries to takeaway the ball when he closes in on the quarterback.

“Being on the right side, it’s usually the blind side of the quarterback, so they can’t see you,” Quinn said. “I had a coach that told me anytime the defense gets a turnovers it’s like a 65-70 percent chance of winning. Any time you score on defense it’s pretty much 100 percent. That’s more my mindset. If I can get a strip, forced fumble and touchdown on defense, that pretty much guarantees the team wins and that’s what I’m about.”

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Will it be wise for Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill to run much in 2018?

Dolphins coach Adam Gase says he expects Ryan Tannehill to look like the same QB when he returns in 2018. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

The Dolphins obviously have a plenty riding on Ryan Tannehill’s arm next season, but what about his legs?

More specifically, will the knee injury that has kept him out since December 2016 affect either his ability or his willingness to use his running ability?

“I know it feels like forever ago, but he got hurt in the pocket throwing a ball,” coach Adam Gase said.

Gase is right, to a point. It does feel like a lifetime ago, and Tannehill’s left knee originally was injured when he was hit by Calais Campbell of the Cardinals. But: Tannehill’s 2017 season vanished into thin air last August in a non-contact incident while scrambling during training camp.

When Gase was asked whether he expected his quarterback to return for this summer’s training camp, he said he expected Tannehill back far sooner, for OTAs.

And he expects Tannehill to look like Tannehill when he does.

‘He’s going to play his game. I don’t think he ever really put himself in harm’s way to begin with.’ — coach Adam Gase, on Ryan Tannehill’s running ability

“He’s going to play his game,” Gase said of the scrambling issue. “I don’t think he ever really put himself in harm’s way to begin with. I thought he was always smart.”

Tannehill has spoken to the South Florida media only twice since the opening of last summer’s training camp and not since reinjuring himself. A few days before going down again, he talked about how much he looked forward to keeping defenses honest with his legs.

“I like to use my feet,” Tannehill said last July. “I think that’s something that we’ve talked about throughout this offseason and I’d like to see myself do a little bit more is use my feet as a weapon. When things aren’t happening downfield, be able to escape, put pressure on the defense and make them honor my feet. That’ll be something that we’ll work on throughout the year.”

It was back in 2014 that we learned how valuable Tannehill’s elusiveness could be. He ran 56 times for 311 yards, and both numbers remain career highs. In fact, the only quarterbacks with more rushing yards that year were Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and Blake Bortles.

Tannehill toned it down the two seasons that followed, rushing just 32 times in 2015 and 39 times in 2016 but still averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Along the way, he became the Dolphins’ all-time rushing leader among quarterbacks with 1,065 yards, surpassing Bob Griese’s 994.

“Occasionally I would have loved to have seen him get down,” Gase said. “But it was usually at the right time where he knew he had no choice and he had to lower his shoulder and try to run through a guy for a big play in the fourth quarter.”

Last year at this time, Tannehill was backed up by someone who was both experienced and dependable in Matt Moore. This summer, that’s hardly the case. But Gase is counting on improved protection by the offensive line — remember all the hits Tannehill took his first few years? — to reduce the risk of injury in 2018.

“If we do a good job of protecting him and he gets the ball out on time, I don’t feel like he’s going to get hit as much as he has in the past,” Gase said.

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