The plan calls for Ryan Tannehill to begin throwing the football again next week and build his strength and endurance gradually for nearly two weeks so he can play Nov. 25 against the Indianapolis Colts — the first game the Miami Dolphins have after their bye.
Except, it’s not really a plan.
It’s really a hope.
An optimistic desire that the Dolphins starting quarterback and his team of doctors are wishing will work despite, you know, no certainty it will work.
“That’s the goal right now for me, to get back out on the field, use these next two weeks to get healthy, get back into throwing and get sharp and be ready to go,” Tannehill said Wednesday during his first public comments since Oct. 10. “Obviously we’ll have to see what happens, but I’m all in on doing everything I can to be ready for Indy.
“I’m all in for getting back for Indy. And, like I said, it’s still up in the air. But I’m confident the shoulder is getting better and it’ll be ready to go.”
The Dolphins want Tannehill back as soon as possible. That makes sense considering the offense is coming off a game in which it managed all of seven first downs.
But there are legitimate concerns this goal could be a set-up for disappointment because of some things Tannehill said about his right shoulder capsule injury during his press conference. For example:
Next week when the quarterback tries to make this push to play at Indianapolis, it won’t be the first time he has made such a push. He tried to set himself up for playing after the mini-bye that followed the Houston Thursday night game Oct. 25.
The hope then was maybe Tannehill, given 10 days between Houston and the New York Jets game, could play against the Jets. But when Tannehill tried to crank up for that eventual Jets start, it became instantly clear he could still not make the throws necessary to play.
And so the team shut him down again.
“When I first stepped out and took a rest period of 10 days and tried to get back into throwing, it just wasn’t there,” Tannehill said. “Backed off again and resting again, trying to heal up, because every time the arm goes through that motion it stresses that capsule. That’s the goal right now to let that thing tighten back down, heal up and then get back into throwing during the bye.”
Tannehill insists he didn’t have a setback. And indeed he didn’t. He just wasn’t healed yet.
So he missed the first marker he and the team had set for possibly returning: The Jets game.
Now the Indianapolis game is the next marker.
Tannehill is currently on another rest period. He will not throw the remainder of this week. But when he spools up next week, he’s going to have to overcome some things to successfully make it to starting against the Colts.
Tannehill is going to have to fundamentally be able to make the throws necessary to play. He has not been able to do that at any point since he injured his shoulder in Cincinnati on Oct 7.
Oh, yes, and there is the issue of managing the pain associated with the injury. Tannehill said he feels discomfort simply raising his right arm. Throwing is painful, he said.
But the pain is not Tannehill’s primary concern.
“Yeah, it’s probably going to be playing through pain the rest of the year,” Tannehill said. “Once I can make the throws and get the ball where it needs to go, then I can deal with the pain. But just being able to make those throws is what we’re trying to get to.”
So even when he returns, Tannehill will be managing pain.
Still, Tannehill is certain he will return this season.
“I’m very confident,” he said.
Tannehill said doctors have told him he won’t need any surgery to repair this injury. It will eventually heal with time. He’s currently strengthening the areas around the capsule to help the healing but the timetable for how long that will take is not specific.
Except an NFL season doesn’t make concessions for unspecific timetables.
The Dolphins want their starting quarterback ready, like, yesterday. So the pressure is on.
Some important issues: We already understand Tannehill might not be 100 percent healed by the time he returns. He must able to make all the throws but there will be questions of accuracy and endurance.
So would he be exposing himself to a greater chance of re-injury if the shoulder isn’t fully healed? Tannehill is comfortable he doesn’t run that risk unless he replays the same type of play that got him injured in the first place.
“It’s more for the situation to get worse,” Tannehill said, “a similar situation would have to happen with the arm getting grabbed while making a throw.”
That’s good. And what about the quarterback’s future beyond this season?
Tannehill is 30 years old. He’s about to miss his 25th game dating back to December of 2016. If he goes out and plays, might he be doing damage that extends beyond the current injury?
“Not to my knowledge, no,” he said. “I’ve asked that question to the doctors and they seem confident that if I’m able to make the throws, then it’s not going to further injure or make a long-term situation happen.”
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero