Want a metaphor that sums up Ryan Tannehill’s first six seasons as a Miami Dolphin?
This one will do:
As part of Tannehill’s rehab for his second (and more serious) ACL injury last fall, the Dolphins’ medical staff would subject him to an unpleasant therapy called BFR — short for blood-flow restriction.
Let Tannehill explain how it works:
“It’s basically a cuff they put and it squeezes 80 percent of the blood flow out of your legs and then we’d ride the bike,” said Tannehill, who shared this painful rehab with linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who also tore his ACL last August.
“It started off as we’d ride and then we made it a competition. How far can you go in 10 minutes? Boom, boom, boom, boom. Pretty soon we were hitting four miles. It might not sound like a lot, but when you don’t have blood flowing into your legs, your legs feel like they’re going to explode after the first 45 seconds. It’s really just a mental grind.”
Over time, Tannehill’s body and spirit strengthened.
Can the same be said for his career, which is in the ultimate crossroads season? Tannehill — fully healthy after that reconstructive knee surgery — is in Year 7 now.
He’s been poked, prodded, and yes squeezed as the Dolphins’ starter since 2012. And if he’s ever going to go boom, boom, boom in Miami, it has to be now.
The Dolphins are all-in on Tannehill in 2018. But beyond that? Anyone’s guess.
Still, if Tannehill is feeling the heat, he isn’t showing it. During a recent sit-down with the Miami Herald, he was Joe Cool.
“I feel like I’m in a better position now, more confident than I’ve ever been, as far as the entire picture of playing the quarterback position,” Tannehill said. “Obviously third year in the offense, so I know it better than I ever have. I feel more confident throwing the ball than I ever have. Really confident in getting us in the right position to be successful on a down-to-down basis.
“The guys around me, I have total faith and total belief in,” he added. “This is a loaded offense that has the ability to strike big at any point. We have a ton of play-makers and now it’s just about getting the ball. I think the offensive line is better than it’s ever been. Bringing in two veteran guys up front. [Josh] Sitton’s been really fun to watch. You see [Laremy] Tunsil and Ja’Wuan playing with more confidence than either one of them has ever had the past couple of years. Really excited about the opportunity that we have. Obviously, it’s just an opportunity, but it’s there and now we have to go seize it.”
Tannehill was never really an introvert, but under Joe Philbin, he was cautious with his words — both to the media and to his coaches and teammates.
But Adam Gase wants to unlock Tannehill’s personality, and we have seen flashes of it in training camp. From posting a hype video on social media to tossing a rookie running back out of the huddle after a missed assignment, there’s no debating this this is Tannehill’s team.
And that’s a direct reflection of his relationship with Gase, who has had Tannehill’s back since the day he took the job.
“I always look at it this way.,” Gase said. “He’s tough, smart. He cares a lot about us winning. That’s not even going into his talent. And I think when a quarterback has those three things, it’s a good starting point. I realized that pretty quickly.’
And it seemed to all be coming together in late 2016. Tannehill led the Dolphins to wins in seven of eight games and his passer rating was at a career high. But when Calais Campbell crashed into Tannehill’s left knee in early December, most everything screeched to a halt.
He has not played since. Still, Tannehill kept mentally invested all last year, helping craft the game plan and sitting in most every meeting. He believes that new perspective helped make him a better player — not that he ever wants to go through it again.
“I think I got better, which is hard to believe,” Tannehill said. “No one’s really going to believe that. But in my mind, I truly believe I got better throughout the course of the year.”
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