Armando Salguero

Ryan Tannehill 'back from the dead,' and it is awesome

Miami Dolphins quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill #17 David  Fales, #9 and Brock Osweiler #8 running  drills during the Miami Dolphins Organized Team Activities at the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 in Davie.
Miami Dolphins quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill #17 David Fales, #9 and Brock Osweiler #8 running drills during the Miami Dolphins Organized Team Activities at the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 in Davie. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

There was that moment during Wednesday's practice when Ryan Tannehill's knee seemed to buckle. It wasn't obvious. It wouldn't have even registered if we were talking about someone other than the Dolphins quarterback who's been sidelined the past 19 games by a major knee injury. Yet there it was and there Tannehill was, seemingly tripping while trying to navigate traffic in the pass pocket.

But Tannehill handled the moment like a hiccup.

The trip was no problem even if it was a reminder of that August 2017 practice in which Tannehill stumbled along the sideline and knew almost immediately, as his left knee shifted, that something was very, very wrong.

"I got stepped on," Tannehill said, recalling Wednesday's moment. "I was moving to the left. I had Danny [Amendola] in an out route. I had to move in the pocket and got stepped on just as I was moving. So just playing. Didn't even think about it. Honestly, hadn't thought about it since it happened until you asked me the question. I feel really good. I don't question it. I feel really good."

Welcome back, Ryan Tannehill. Nice to see all is well.

Later in this practice, Tannehill was again stepping up in the pocket, looking downfield, when defensive tackle Gabe Wright used his quickness against right guard Jesse Davis and was suddenly, unexpectedly in Tannehill's face.

Tannehill scrambled left out of the pocket.

And soon he was in the secondary — like any other NFL quarterback trying to salvage a play and himself after his protection betrayed him.

"I'm just playing, trying to get back in the groove of playing football again," Tannehill said. "Knocking some dust off. Getting back on the field, being in the pocket and moving around. Command at the line of scrimmage all those types of things. It's not as clean as I want it to be yet, but I'm getting better and just being on the field is a lot of fun for me."

Wednesday was Tannehill's second practice this week. He's the Miami Dolphins' unquestioned starting quarterback and he took all the starting quarterback work. It sounds like that's the way it's going to be through June's veteran minicamp into training camp, which opens in July.

The Dolphins are giving veteran running back Frank Gore time off during these spring drills because there's no need to burn out a veteran running back now. But Tannehill, fully cleared to play football and all that entails, is taking every repetition because missing so many last year was too painful.

"I tried to stay positive and take it in stride the best I could and do the best I could and rehab and grow and get stronger every day, but it was hard," Tannehill admitted. "That was a hard time for me, just not being around the guys, not being out at practice. I was around in meetings but it's just not the same. You can't replicate that time of grinding it out on the practice field together and going through the ups and downs of playing games and going through practice. That was the hardest part for me.

"Initially when you get hurt you think the games is what I'll miss the most. And that was hard. I missed the games. It was tough every Sunday, seeing the guys down on the field and not being a part of it.

"But what I missed the most was day in and day out the grind of the preparation, of competing with the guys, of pushing them, trying to make them the best players they could be, making the offense the best it could be. Just driving the offense. That was the hardest part for me."

Tannehill says he grew last season even as he failed to take even one regular-season snap. That's why he says this is his third season in the Adam Gase offense. But with all respect to how we're about to see him play, it is most encouraging to see that Tannehill has stepped forward as a leader — perhaps the team leader.

"He's a leader in and out of the huddle," center Daniel Kilgore said.

"He takes command of the huddle. He takes command of meetings," guard Josh Sitton said.

Indeed, before the Dolphins started their OTA sessions this week, Tannehill told his teammates to appreciate the work and even embrace it. Because they would miss it if it were unexpectedly taken away from them.

"It feels amazing to be back out there," Tannehill said. "A long road to be back on the field. A lot of hard work. A lot of time and effort put in by myself. I got guys in the training room, helping me, getting me right. So I've had help along the way but it took a lot of work to get back, put a helmet back on step on the grass again.

"I was telling the guys I remember sitting in the cafeteria [that overlooks the Dolphins practice field] looking through the glass like a little kid that's not allowed to go outside and play. I feel blessed to be able to go out, compete and play and do what Iove."

When he wasn't playing, Tannehill says he took "mental reps" and attended meetings and the lessons he learned are "things I'll use the rest of my career." But not playing was a grievous loss for him.

Maybe that's why he joked when he started his press conference that he was "back from the dead."

That's good. Because resurrections are awesome.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero
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