Practice had just ended Wednesday. A line of kids waited patiently for a moment of Ryan Tannehill's time. None went home disappointed.
Tannehill posed and smiled and signed for every boy and girl that approached. He made agreeable small talk with their parents. He was the ambassador any team would want from its starting quarterback.
Those fans had no idea that Tannehill felt like garbage the entire time.
Tannehill had been quietly fighting a nasty bug for more than a week. No matter how much sleep he got, how many fluids he drank, he just couldn't shake it.
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He just can't afford to. Gase telegraphed that thinking a few weeks back when he shot down the suggestion that Tannehill might enjoy a veteran's skip day too.
Here's why: The regular season begins in just over three weeks, and Tannehill's offense isn't nearly ready. Their starters have had four live action possessions since the start of camp -- two in an intrasquad scrimmage and two more in last week's preseason opener -- yet the Dolphins first string has yet to cross midfield.
And then there's Tannehill, who's still figuring out his third offense in five NFL seasons.
They have another chance Friday to get it right. The Dolphins play the Cowboys here in preseason game No. 2, and it's about to get real.
“It’s now or never,” Tannehill said Wednesday through the frog in his voice. “It’s time to go. I think we feel that urgency. This week has been a good week for us. I think we got a lot better.”
Tannehill continued: “I saw some great strides from the offensive line the past couple of days, just protecting and giving me time to get the ball out, and guys are winning downfield. We still have a lot of work to do but I think we’re headed in the right direction. The past couple of days, we’ve seen some great strides.”
A touchdown Friday would seem like more than a small step. It would feel like a giant leap for Dolphin-kind.
Miami's starting offense got blown off the field by the Giants last Friday. The Dolphins first string gained 14 yards of offense -- six of which they lost because of penalty.
Gase blames himself as much as anyone for the struggles. He's determined to call a better game against the Cowboys -- no matter how long it takes.
"I’m not setting anything," Gase said, when asked about a plan for playing time. "We’re playing and then whenever I feel like taking them out, I’ll take them out."
For Wake, it's the end of a 10-month journey that began when he tore his Achilles tendon up in New England.
For Williams, it will mark his first time in a Dolphins uniform. The former No. 1 overall pick sat out the preseason opener, and Gase considered resting his talented defensive line again Friday. They wouldn't have it.
"I'm looking forward to it," Williams said. "A lot."
No one's worried about the Dolphins defensive line.
Their offensive line? That's a different story. The group was outclassed by the Giants a week ago, but should have an easier go of it against the Cowboys, who have the league's ninth-worst front seven, according to Pro Football Focus.
Seems like a perfect time for Laremy Tunsil to finally get his chance with the starters. He's gotten more and more reps with the first team, and he'll almost certainly be the Dolphins' starting left guard in Seattle on Sept. 11.
Gase was coy when asked if Tunsil will start against the Cowboys, but all signs point to him doing so.
That would be great news for Tannehill, who has been sacked more times than any other quarterback in football the last four years.
“I’m pretty sure that anybody who has watched his tape the last four years [knows] he’ll stand back there and try to hold onto that thing and get the ball out,” Gase said. “We’d love it to where we get through a game and limit the hits and sacks and pressures. That’s what every team is trying to do.”
▪ Three injured Dolphins did not make the trip to Dallas: defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, corner Chimdi Chekwa and running back Kenyan Drake.