Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill on Thursday reinjured the same knee that sidelined him for the team’s final four games last season, creating anxiety inside the organization and uncertainty about when he will return.
Tannehill’s MRI to determine the extent of his new left knee injury proved inconclusive, requiring further study, and all options remain on the table, according to multiple sources.
That means that in the worst-case scenario, it could still be determined that Tannehill needs surgery on his left knee.
It could also mean that the quarterback might once again avoid surgery and find a way to get back on the field this season.
Reports that Tannehill basically got a clean bill of health from the MRI are not correct at this time because further examination of that MRI might give a specialist pause.
Tannehill’s MRI result and perhaps even the player will be examined by more doctors before a final determination is made and a plan for recovery is drawn up.
The non-contact injury happened during team drills, when Tannehill went down awkwardly after scrambling to the sideline in the first hour of practice.
He remained on the ground for at least 15 seconds, surrounded by teammates while trainers examined the left knee.
Tannehill then got up and walked very slowly to the locker room but without a pronounced limp. He was accompanied by two Dolphins officials but did not need their help to get to the locker room.
The Dolphins organization did not issue any comment on Tannehill’s injury and players were told not to discuss it with reporters.
“We’re just praying for him,” Dolphins tight end MarQueis Gray said after practice. “Anytime you see your quarterback go down, you think the worst.”
Tannehill was enjoying one of the best stretches of his career when he sustained a sprained ACL and MCL in a game against Arizona last December when he was hit by Calais Campbell.
He shed tears at the time because, as he explained in June, “I finally started to feel really comfortable in the offense and what we were trying to accomplish and how we were doing it. The game was really slowing down for me. I was seeing things more clear for me than I ever have.”
After consulting with doctors, Tannehill decided not to have surgery, which likely would have sidelined him into September or October of this season. It’s unclear if this injury is related to last year’s injury.
He has been wearing a brace on the knee but has said for months that the knee has been a non-issue and that it hasn’t affected his mobility.
Tannehill finished last season with a career-best 93.5 rating, which ranked 12th in the league among quarterbacks, along with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Matt Moore, 32, replaced Tannehill in team drills after the injury and threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills.
“He’s a great quarterback,” Dolphins quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree said Thursday of Moore. “I’m happy to have him.”
If the Dolphins determine that Tannehill will miss an extended period, Moore would be the starter, but the team might seek a veteran backup who would represent an upgrade over second-year player Brandon Doughty and journeyman David Fales.
Doughty has been inconsistent in training camp, and Fales has consistently struggled with accuracy.
Remaining available free agent quarterbacks include Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Thaddeus Lewis, Zach Mettenberger , Charlie Whitehurst, Sean Renfree and Aaron Murray.
Asked last week whether Kaepernick was being blackballed because he did not stand for the national anthem before games last season, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said: “A lot has been written about it, but you know owners and coaches more specifically. They’ll do whatever it takes to win. If they think he can help him win, I’m sure, I would hope, they would sign him.”
Dolphins coach Adam Gase was Jay Cutler’s offensive coordinator in Chicago, but Cutler retired this offseason to join Fox’s No. 2 announcing team and has shown no inclination to want to play again, let alone return as a backup.
Asked Wednesday if, in a weird way, he hopes not to play a snap in a regular-season game this year, Moore said: “In a weird way, if you’re going to put that in there, yeah. My job is to be ready, just like last year, at the drop of a hat.
“Do I hope that happens? Absolutely not. But if it does, I think Adam and I both would be that much better working with each other.”
Filling in for Tannehill at the end of last season, Moore had eight touchdowns, three interceptions and a 105.6 passer rating in three regular-season games, then completed 29 of 36 passes for 289 yards, with one touchdown, one interception and a 97.8 rating in a 30-12 playoff loss to the Steelers.