Ryan Tannehill could not stop smiling Thursday night.
Preseason games are usually drudgery. But for Tannehill, it was a moment 20 months in the making.
His long-awaited return to football was not perfect, but it came close.
He showed poise, command and accuracy in the Dolphins’ 26-24 loss to Buccaneers, completing 4 of 6 passes for 32 in his lone possession.
He showed agility from the very first snap, rolling to his right on a bootleg and finding Kenny Stills for a first down.
And, most importantly, he stayed upright the whole time.
“I don’t think I was touched,” Tannehill said. “It was a good night.”
More like great.
If the Dolphins are going to have any chance this year, Tannehill needs to stay healthy. If he gets the kind of protection his offensive line gave him Thursday, the odds of that go way up.
“Protection was awesome,” Tannehill said. “Guys up front did an awesome job, not only in the pass game but the run game as well. That third down, third-and-11, we ran a draw. They did a great job of getting up on the linebackers and gave us a chance to get to the second level. Got us to fourth and 1. Offensive line did a great job for us and I am happy with the way it started.”
The only thing Tannehill was not happy with was the way that drive ended: a missed long field goal attempt.
But even that couldn’t spoil his mood on this night.
“It was huge,” said Tannehill, who missed all of 2017 after suffering two major knee injuries in eight months. “I think probably more appreciation than I normally have for a Preseason 1 game. I didn’t make it to this point last year. It was a long rehab process, and everything it took to get back to this point. I think more appreciation for every second that I was out there and just enjoyed it a little more.”
Tannehill added: “It was kind of constant. I was just soaking it all up, soaking up every moment that I could. Enjoying it. I knew what it was like not to be out there and have to struggle through missing a whole year. Definitely didn’t take any moment for granted.”
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