If you caught a glimpse of Ryan Tannehill’s search history, you might find an inquiry for “Willis Reed game”.
Reed famously overcame – overlooked – what is typically a ruinous injury and limped his way onto the floor to help his New York Knicks win game seven of the 1970 NBA Finals.
Granted, Tannehill’s team isn’t getting ready to play in the decisive game of a championship match – his team is trying to win its first postseason game since the turn of the century.
The desire to help his team is likely what had the Dolphins starting quarterback back on the practice field Friday, not even a month after spraining the ACL and MCL in his left knee.
Tannehill sustained the injury on Dec. 11 against the Arizona Cardinals, but did not require surgery to repair the ligaments.
But before hopes are to get too high, Tannehill was largely limited Friday – working with the scout team and mostly throwing the ball and doing little movement otherwise.
Dolphins head coach Adam Gase has already said that reserve quarterback Matt Moore will be the starter for Sunday’s playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it hasn’t stopped Tannehill from trying to work his way back.
Gase said that the team is being optimistically cautious with Tannehill’s progress up to this point.
“We wanted to see how he’s moving and how he felt,” Gase said. “We have to take baby steps. I don’t want to put him in jeopardy for further injury. We’ll sit down with him this afternoon to see how he feels, ask him if anything felt awkward.”
“He’s a bit ahead of schedule…but I don’t know how close to 100 percent he’ll be by Sunday.”
It was indefinite how long Tannehill would be sidelined once doctors saw that he didn’t sustain any ligament tears. Still, knee injuries are substantial and healing is always relative to the athlete.
Moore has continued to take starters reps and will run the offense against a Steelers defense that gave up 30 points and over 400 yards of total yards to the Dolphins in their regular season tilt.
That still leaves the door open for Tannehill to possibly return if Miami knocks out the Steelers Sunday.
“If we’re fortunate enough to get to that point, then we’ll evaluate him then,” Gase replied when asked about Tannehill coming back if Miami wins Sunday. “I can’t predict that now. We have to get to the point where he can practice first. We’ll talk to him, see how he feels – see if he’s stiff or anything like that – and go from there.”
Jason Jones Cut
The Dolphins announced Friday that they released defensive end Jason Jones.
As a result, defensive end Mario Williams – who was a “healthy scratch” in the regular season finale and who the team reportedly planned on releasing during the offseason – will likely see action for Miami during the AFC Wild Card game.
In just his first season with the Fins, Jones recorded 3.5 sacks and 36 tackles.
“It was an organizational decision,” Gase simply said when asked about the move Friday.
A league source confirmed to WQAM reporter Alex Donno that Jones likely would not have played this week even if he wasn’t cut by the team and that Miami now has the flexibility to add a free agent prior to Sunday’s game.
Feeling The Beat
In an effort to break the monotony and keep his players loose in anticipation of playing the franchise’s first playoff game in eight seasons, Gase allowed for a DJ to play music during Friday’s practice.
“I felt it was something that they would enjoy,” Gase said. “They’ve had a good week of practice…being in pads on Wednesday and coming in each day and working hard. I felt this would be a good thing for the team. It energized them, definitely.”
Music during practices is something that many teams – across nearly all major sports – have implemented. Players are often seen warming up with headphones on, likely listening to whatever genre of music gets their competitive juices flowing.
While the DJ spinning the records at Miami’s practice on Friday remains unknown, the Fins have a decided leg up on other franchise as they can choose from a bevy of locally renowned DJ’s the next time they want to get jiggy.
“I’ve gotten plenty requests already,” Gase began.
“For DJs,” he said.
Gase also confirmed Friday during his post-practice press conference that starting cornerback Byron Maxwell is doubtful for Sunday’s game.
Since suffering an ankle injury during the first quarter of Miami’s Dec. 17 matchup against the New York Jets, Maxwell missed the final two games of the regular season and hasn’t practiced this week.
Though Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph told the Miami Herald’s Adam Beasley Thursday that Maxwell was “fighting to play”, Gase quelled the likelihood of the sixth-year vet suiting up against the Steelers.
Still, Gase isn’t concerned about going up against Pittsburgh potent passing game short-handed.
“We have enough depth at cornerback for Sunday’s game,” Gase said. “If they’re on our roster, then they are ready to go.”