Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill feels as good as he has since injuring his throwing shoulder on Oct. 6, but coach Adam Gase was not prepared to say Monday if Tannehill will even work without limitation when the team returns to practice Tuesday.
Tannehill spent most of the team’s bye week at Dolphins headquarters, and made throws that were difficult, if not impossible, in the weeks after injuring the capsule of his right shoulder.
“We kept trying to spitball things off of each other to make sure we’re covering everything where when we get him out to practice, now all of the sudden something comes up and he hasn’t done it yet,” Gase said. “Once we got through the initial, OK, stationary target, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 [yards]. Now, let’s get some moving bodies in there. It’s not the same because it’s trainers running around instead of professional athletes. But he does a good job of simulating that in his head, OK, I’ve got to put the ball here and they pretend it’s a moving target.”
So yes, Tannehill can throw the ball downfield. That’s a good start, but not enough for Gase to feel comfortable putting him in a game.
“He looks like what I remember,” Gase said. “I feel like it’s forever since I’ve seen saw him throw. To me, he looks like what he wants to look like. Now it’s about the next day. ‘How do I feel the next day?’ and ‘How much can we do the next day?’ Then after the day off, how does he feel after that? Really, it’s going to be a test of, we go out to practice and now it’s a different intensity, different throws. He’s got bodies in front of him. The arm angle has to change. There are some things that we can’t do with him on air that that we’re able to do in practice.”
The Dolphins have an unconventional practice schedule this week. They usually work Wednesday through Friday. But with the bye falling the week before Thanksgiving, they will work Tuesday and Wednesday, take the holiday off, and then finish up the week Friday.
Gase said he planned to meet with Tannehill Monday afternoon to determine how much his quarterback can do. Tannehill has missed the last five games due to shoulder discomfort; he told reporters two weeks ago that the joint hurt every time he threw.
That prompted the Dolphins to shut him down for a week and have Tannehill resume throwing during the bye.
The rest appeared to have helped.
It’s a delicate situation for both the team and player, as the Dolphins are in a five-way tie for the AFC’s sixth and final playoff spot and on Sunday face the Colts, one of the other teams bunched at 5-5.
The Dolphins have lost five of their last eight games, and Brock Osweiler, Tannehill’s backup, seems to be regressing each week.
Still, Gase suggested he will not rush Tannehill back because of the offense’s performance.
“I think a lot of our struggles have come from not taking advantage of opportunities when we’ve had them,” Gase said. “It hasn’t been one guy. I can’t say this is the reason. It’s easy to go to the quarterback. There’s been times where Brock’s been in the right spot, made the right throw and we don’t finish the play. Or we have what we want and the protection breaks down so fast that he has no opportunity. Really, it comes down to our whole group has to play better. If we do that, no matter who’s back there, it gives us a better chance.”
If Tannehill can play against the Colts, Gase insists the entire playbook will be open.
“These guys are professional athletes,” he added. “This is what they do. This is what they know. I don’t. I’m not. If he’s in there I’m not going to be thinking, ‘Well, he hasn’t played.’ We’re going to go. And we’re going to play. And if he makes a mistake he makes a mistake. I’m not going to sit there and dwell on it. I just want. Whenever this happens where he goes in there I just want him to play his game.”