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Ryan Tannehill 2.0: A knee brace or a quarterback?

NFL: Miami Dolphins-Minicamp Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins were back on the practice field as training camp began this morning. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill returned to his rightful place under center and the team began moving toward the 2018 season. Tannehill, who is returning from a torn ACL that caused him to miss the last three regular season and one playoff game in 2016, then also took the 2017 season from him, practiced with a knee brace Thursday, the first time the hardware has appeared on the quarterback this year.

While the brace would be newsworthy in-and-of itself, what was on the back of the brace was more noteworthy. On one of the struts across the back of Tannehill’s leg was a simple label reading “Tannehill 2.0.”

Asked about the label after practice, Tannehill downplayed the significance, explaining, “I have so many braces that they had to label them somehow. I guess that’s how they figured it out.”

He continued, “Honestly, I didn’t even notice it until today I looked down. They made like four or five different braces for me to try out and have backups and backups in case one gets bent or whatever. It’s just a way they label them so they can keep them straight.”

No matter what he says, however, the “Tannehill 2.0” name is appropriate. Tannehill is back, and he is ready to take that next step forward. The brace may be the true 2.0, but at the end of the season, it is Tannehill who will need to be seen as the true 2.0 model.

The doubters are out there. So many in the national media - and even many Dolphins fans - have written off Miami’s quarterback because of his injury. Despite multiple other quarterbacks being given the benefit of the doubt as they return this year, Tannehill’s ability and recovery is continually questioned and he is routinely ranked near the bottom of passers in the league. All of that, despite a 2016 season that was best, and was only continuing to improve before Calais Campbell’s 6-foot-8, 300 pound body slammed into the knee, bending it backwards.

When asked about the “Tannehill 2.0” quarterback model, Tannehill laughed, responding, “I hope he’s the best one yet. That’s the goal is to come out and get better each and every day.”

He then stressed, again, that the 2.0 does not reference him. “It refers to the brace,” he said. “It had nothing to do with that.”

But Tannehill 2.0 - the quarterback - has already shown he is a little different than the player he was when he last took a snap for the Dolphins. On Tuesday, the day prior to Miami’s veterans reporting to camp, Tannehill posted a video on Instagram showing him working out - away from the team facilities - with his receivers.

The video included Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement,” starting with the line “Allow me to reintroduce myself.” The video also appeared to be a rebuttal directed toward criticism from former Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who stated this offseason that, in Miami, his quarterbacks (presumably Tannehill, Matt Moore, and Jay Cutler) were not interested in doing offseason workouts.

Asked about what Landry said, Tannehill replied, “The thought process [on releasing the video] is that I’m just trying to be a little bit more active on [Instagram]. That’s not something that I’ve done a lot in the past. One of Kenny’s (Stills) buddies was out there filming and was like, ‘I have this video,’ and I put it up.”

Asked about Landry’s offseason criticism, Tannehill simply deflected the question, responding, “I just want to focus on the guys we have here and what we’re trying to build here.”

The 2016 version of Tannehill would not have released that kind of video. Today’s Tannehill appears ready to be, not just a leader, but the face of the Dolphins. Asked if he is a different player today than the one who was on the field against the Cardinals, Tannehill answered, “Yes, I would say I’ve grown a lot as a leader. I’ve grown a lot as a person, as a football player, just because of the adversity that I’ve faced. Like I said, being able to take a step back and watch from a different perspective and take in all that information, file it away and write it down. I’ve been going back, looking at my notes of things that’ve hit me over the last 16 months or whatever it may be and build on that. It’s experience that while I would never want it to happen that way, it’s going to be invaluable for me moving forward.”

The Tannehill who will lead the Dolphins in 2018 is not the Tannehill who was injured in 2016.

This is Tannehill 2.0.