Football is finally back.
And so is Angry Ryan Tannehill.
“He was all riled up today,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Wednesday, as his team began preparing for Sunday’s opener against the Titans. “I figured out a way to upset him a couple of times, which is always great. He was wired in today. “
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“I was excited,” he said. “It’s a big opportunity for us. I knew that coming off a big break that guys would need pushing a little bit. It was a warm day out there, a little tropical, and we had to do everything we could to get better. It was one of a few days of practice a week, so I really wanted to push the guys and make sure we were getting as much as we could out of each and every rep.”
Tannehill values every practice because he has had so few of them in the past 21 months.
Sunday marks the end of his involuntary football sabbatical, his first NFL start since Calais Campbell crashed into his left knee and mangled Tannehill’s career in December 2016.
Two torn ACLs, one reconstructive surgery and untold hours of rehab later, Tannehill’s comeback is complete — and he’s going to enjoy every moment of it.
“Sunday’s going to be huge,” Tannehill said. “I’m really looking forward to it. I haven’t gotten to play a full game in a long, long time, and to be able to do it at home, in front of our fans, and go out and do what I love, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
If the preseason is at all predictive, he is in line for a productive season. Tannehill completed 74.4 percent of his pass attempts, did not turn the ball over and compiled a passer rating of 99.0 during the exhibition season. All of that is good stuff.
The key is carrying that momentum into the season opener.
That has been a shortcoming in his first five NFL seasons. While the Dolphins have gone 3-2 in those games, his completion percentage has been under 60 percent and his passer rating just 73.6 in Week 1s.
What’s more, the Dolphins have had a winning record to start October just twice since the 2006 season.
The Dolphins cannot afford a slow start, with — at least on paper — the soft part of the schedule in the first three weeks.
The Titans, Jets and Raiders went a combined 20-28 in 2017, and two of those 20 wins came against the Dolphins.
“For me, I feel more ready for this year than I ever have felt before,” Tannehill said. “It’s tough to say the excitement feels different. I feel more confident in the guys that we have and the path that we’re on. Are we there yet? No. But the standards we’ve established in training camp, throughout the offseason, how guys coming to work each and every day, pushing to get better. That’s what excites me more than I’ve ever been.”
For their part, the Titans are preparing as though Tannehill never got hurt. New coach Mike Vrabel told Miami reporters that Tannehill “looks to be where he was before the injury.”
That didn’t just happen. Tannehill spent the past two offseasons rehabbing to get to this point. While others with catastrophic injury often battle doubt over whether they will ever be the same again, Tannehill suggested Wednesday that he remained optimistic throughout the process that he would be ready to play on Sept. 9.
“That was always the goal,” Tannehill said. “Stayed strong in believing that. You never know what’s going to happen but Coach Gase was great along the way, keeping me in the loop, informed on what he was thinking and where the team was headed. Yeah, I always felt confident that this would be where we ended up. It’s finally here and I’m ready to go.”
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