DAVIE, Fla. -- When Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill took the field for the first official practice of training camp, the bulky brace on his surgically repaired left knee might have created an understandable moment of pause for some.
He wasn't wearing it during OTAs. And he'd created the impression that his knee, almost one year from the day he tore his ACL, would give him no limitations. The good news? He confirmed after practice, indeed, his knee remains without issue.
"I'm going to wear it in games, so [wearing it in practice] is just to get used to it," said Tannehill, who has a sticker with the words "Tannehill 2.0" affixed to the back of the brace. "It's purely to prevent what started this whole thing -- getting hit in the side of the knee. It has nothing to do with stability. A lot of quarterbacks do it because it gives you less of a chance [of injuring your plant leg]. I've stayed away in the past. But I've learned it's better to do it than not."
Tannehill told reporters, however, that he wasn't aware of the "2.0." sticker until he noticed it during practice and that the number refers to the brace and not a different version of himself.
"I think they've made like four or five different braces for me to try out, and have backups of backups in case one gets bent or whatever. So [it's] just the way they labeled them so they can keep them straight," he said, according to the South-Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase said the brace is not "something that I'm really thinking about."
"Eventually we'll have to start working on sliding a different way than he's used to," Gase said.
The new approach is merely one of many ways Tannehill has evolved. The others, like a more deliberate and genuine effort to vibe with his pass-catches, are probably even more important to what will be a critical 2018 season for the seven-year veteran.
"I learned a lot over the past 16 months through the injury," Tannehill said. "I learned a lot through the process, and I have a better appreciation of being out here. Not taking the little things for granted. I do what I love and have people around me that I care about."
On a video posted to Instagram, set to Jay Z's Public Service Announcement that include the lyric "allow me to reintroduce myself," Tannehill thanked his teammates for grinding with him through the offseason. It showed him throwing passes to a number of his players away from the team's Davie facility.
One receiver not shown in the video, though, might be among the most important to the upcoming season: Newly acquired wide receiver Danny Amendola. A free-agency signing this year, Amendola could be an ideal outlet for Tannehill. During Thursday's practice, the two seemed to already have a nice level of on-field chemistry.
"We have two great connections in tight windows," Tannehill said. "[Amendola] is a veteran guy who can get open in tight windows. And he knows how to manipulate situations so that he can get open. It doesn't take a whole lot of space for him to get open and make those catches in tight windows."
That's an especially good -- albeit extremely early -- sign since somebody will need to pick up the production that left South Florida with Jarvis Landry's departure for the Browns. While Landry's fit in Miami's locker room remained a hot topic this offseason after he left -- including Landry's criticism that he didn't have "a good relationship" with Tannehill -- there is no question about the pair's connection on the field.
In Landry's three years when Tannehill was the starter, he never caught fewer than 80 passes in a season. Without Landry, and with no clear No. 1 receiver on the team's roster at this point, the Dolphins are expected to employ more of a committee approach that includes some combination of Amendola, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant.
Interestingly, Gase believes his group of wide receivers might be the team's deepest position, even if it isn't the most talented position. In other words, Gase has depth -- a logjam of guys that could also seriously compete for significant catches in 2018. The team must hope, however, those players elevate to that point rather than simply tread water.
And that's where Tannehill comes into play: If he can help these wide receivers excel, he might be on the brink of what many in South Florida believe could be his best season yet.