The Miami Dolphins open the 2018 preseason Thursday night at home against Tampa Bay and that will signal the return of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who will start for Miami according to a source familiar with the team’s plans.
Tannehill, 30, hasn’t played an NFL football game since Dec. 11, 2016. That means it has been 606 days (one year, seven months and 29 days) since Tannehill last played in a game.
He missed the final month of the 2016 season with an ACL injury suffered against the Arizona Cardinals. And after opting to rehabilitate the ligament rather than have surgery, Tannehill was injured again on Aug. 3 of 2017 during a training camp practice. He missed the entire 2017 season.
But Tannehill has told reporters multiple times he’s feeling great now that he’s had the surgery to correct the problem and has gone through a rigorous rehab process post-surgery. He has been practicing every day since the Dolphins opened their current training camp. The team has had 11 practices.
Tannehill has multiple times scrambled out of the pocket and run down the sideline and out of bounds into a crowd of players without incident.
(He tore his ACL last year in camp doing exactly the same thing).
Tannehill’s status is not a question mark to the team. Or to Tannehill.
“I feel like I did before everything happened, so I feel good,” Tannehill said.
That’s why multiple sources are so convinced he’ll be in there tonight without question. When asked if Tannehill would play, one source seemingly scoffed, asking rhetorically, “Why wouldn’t he?”
Even though the return from injury is not a thing for Tannehill, he will wear a brace. And that has required some acclimation.
“I wouldn’t say it limits me,” Tannehill said. “It’s a bit cumbersome, but it doesn’t limit me from doing anything. I ran in the offseason with it, did all the drills with it and everything, so you get used to it and it becomes like second nature.”
Coach Adam Gase has said Tannehill will have to learn a new way to slide on scramble plays in order not to get hit. The baseball-type leg first slide Tannehill used previously is out because the brace could catch in the turf and cause a new injury.
Tannehill, who is not expected to play more than one quarter and probably less, may very well be forced to change his lead slide leg or go head first this season.
“I think there will be more head-first slides, just as the nature of what it is, just being able to keep your speed going forward and dive forward,” he said. “We’ll work on that. We’ll work on the right leg down slides as well as the head-first slides.”
While the Dolphins and Tannehill understand the starting quarterback will be exposed to hitting this game and that hasn’t happened in 606 days, the quarterback is seemingly excited about the prospect of taking another step in his return.
“I am excited to get back out there and play some real football,” Tannehill said. “As the spring has gone on and as training camp has gone on, every step is feeling really good as far as getting prepared for the season.
“That’s just the next step as we go, to get hit for the first time – hopefully not get hit for the first time, but I’ll at least have the chance to get hit for the first time.”