Miami Dolphins

How Ryan Tannehill helped Raekwon McMillan get his health (and confidence) back

Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan feels good to be standing up again in front of media

Miami Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan speaks to the media at Miami Dolphin training facility on Thursday, May 24, 2018.
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Miami Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan speaks to the media at Miami Dolphin training facility on Thursday, May 24, 2018.

Ryan Tannehill and Raekwon McMillan spent a season together — but not in a way either would ever wish.

Both sustained similar season-ending knee injuries during the 2017 preseason.

Both had a long, frustrating road back.

And both faced off in what might of been the team's best competition of an otherwise dreary season: Miami's training room decathlon.

"We got our surgery on the same exact day," McMillan said Thursday, speaking to reporters for the first time since tearing his ACL last August. "We starting rehab on the same exact day. From Day 1, it was always a competition. Who could walk without their crutches first? Who could run full speed underwater first? It was just little stuff. Who can get a bigger quad muscle?

"It was just really stupid stuff like that to keep competing with each other."

And who won?

"I won," he said, cracking up the room. "I mean, I don't know. Tannehill progressed a little bit faster than me because he just knew what the deal was with his knee. He wasn't scared of the aches and pains that come with it. He moved along and helped me move along as well."

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill speaks to the media about his knee injury and being back to play football this year.

Two bits of good news in that story:

1. Tannehill truly is the team's leader, and takes charge in ways often hidden from public view.

2. Those aches and pains have dissipated for McMillan, who lost his entire rookie season to the flukiest of injuries.

McMillan was supposed the be the team's starting middle linebacker, impressing his coaches so much as a rookie that they planned on him making the defensive calls from Day 1.

But that plan lasted all of one preseason snap. McMillan collided with a teammate running down a punt on his first professional play and knew right away that the knee injury was a bad one.

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase speaks to the media about quarterback Ryan Tannehill

"When I was on the ground, I was sitting there like, 'Wow,'" McMillan said Thursday. "I knew something was up as soon as it happened because I've never been hurt before, and when I jumped up to run again — if you go back and look at it — when I first fell, I jumped right back up and tried to run but it didn't feel right. I sat back down, and I knew something was up."

He was right. Doctors quickly diagnosed a torn ACL, and further tests confirmed that assessment. He needed reconstructive surgery and the six- to nine-month rehab that comes with it.

"It was hard at first, but then I kind of sucked it up and told myself that I could either let this year be a waste or prepare myself for next year, because I know next year there is going to be a role to start. I can't have any setbacks."

If he has, they have been minor. McMillan, like Tannehill, has been given a clean bill of health and has "no limitations" in practice.

McMillan has relied on Tannehill and new teammate Frank Gore for advice during the journey back. Both have similarly scarred knees, and told him that the injury "needs to be the last thing on your mind" when he's on the field.

Assuming he stays healthy and regains his past form, McMillan will finally get his chance to fulfill the role he expected to last year.

And on Sundays, he will get to compete with Tannehill — instead of against him.

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