Ryan Tannehill said Tuesday that the 24 sacks he has sustained this season have not taken a toll. His body said otherwise.
The Miami Dolphins quarterback has a softball-sized welt on his back. He has rug burn on his throwing wrist.
And even he acknowledges that it’s bound to get worse if the protection doesn’t get better.
“Obviously, we want to get it fixed and I don’t want to be taking that many hits,” Tannehill said. “You’re more susceptible to injuries when you’re taking that many hits.
“Obviously, all it takes is one. One really bad hit could be the one that does you in.”
Just ask Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who will miss Sunday’s game with a bum hamstring. Or Cleveland’s Brian Hoyer, whose ACL tore on a sideline collision last Thursday. Mark Sanchez, Jake Locker and EJ Manuel have all been shelved due to injury this season.
Tannehill, to his credit, has been remarkably durable during his young career. He hasn’t missed a start, and has left just one game to injury (a knee issue in 2012).
“He’s tough as nails,” said John Jerry, the right guard responsible for three of those 24 sacks. “He’s a competitor, he’s a great leader. We’re really blessed to have that guy standing behind us.”
How long he remains standing, however, largely depends on how the offensive line plays when the team returns from its bye.
The Dolphins broke for the week Tuesday, and the players will have five days off before returning to prepare for the Bills.
For Tannehill, it will be a chance to heal. Unlike some of his teammates, who jumped a plane for far-flung destinations, Tannehill intends to find a soft place to collapse here at home.
He will reacquaint himself with wife Lauren and get a lot of rest. And he will pop into the team’s training complex from time to time to begin film study on Buffalo.
“It’s good for everybody to step back a little bit, get a new perspective on things,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “Sometimes you get caught up in it and never get away. Sometimes you can lose sight of the big picture. I hope he has a chance to get away.”
As for Philbin, he plans to spend time with his family during the next couple of days. Daughter Colleen attends the nearby University School on the Nova Southeastern campus, and Dad plans to watch her dance.
But on Tuesday, there was no dancing around the obvious: The Dolphins’ season will most assuredly end in disappointment if Tannehill’s protection doesn’t improve.
The Dolphins essentially have three options: Change their personnel, change their scheme or simply play better.
Philbin all but ruled out the first solution Monday. And if they start max protecting with two tight ends, that would take Brandon Gibson, one of the team’s best offensive players, off the field.
That leaves only one way to fix that problem: Have the five guys on the line do their job better.
“He’s the No. 1 priority for us as linemen,” Jerry said. “We have to protect him better. We have to do a better job to help Tanny out.”
If not, they could end up with a broken quarterback, either mentally or physically. It’s not uncommon for quarterbacks who get bombarded with pressure to eventually start seeing ghosts. Tannehill said that hasn’t happened to him up to this point.
“I really don’t feel a mental toll,” Tannehill said. “Obviously, we have an issue. It’s been well-documented.
“We talked about it a lot inside the building,” he added. “It’s something we’re going to continue to work and use this bye week to lock in some ways, screens, quick game, moving the pocket. We’ll use this time to really do that, move forward and cut down those numbers.”• The Dolphins held a light 90-minute practice before scattering for the week. LB Dannell Ellerbe (shoulder) did not participate, while DE Cameron Wake (knee), CB Dimitri Patterson (groin) and S Chris Clemons (unspecified) all sat out the majority of the session.
“Thanks for the concern everyone!!” Ellerbe wrote on Twitter. “I will be fine and back out on the field very soon!!! #PHINSUP”