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Doctor says Tannehill unlikely to return by target date

Though Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said he hopes to return for the Nov. 25 game at Indianapolis, that’s probably not going to happen, a former NFL team doctor said Thursday.

David Chao, the former Chargers team doctor who now comments on athlete medical issues in a regular column for the San Diego Union-Tribune, said it’s “highly unlikely” that Tannehill will be ready to play in that Colts games, which follows Miami’s bye week.

In fact, Chao told the Miami Herald on Thursday that there is “a greater chance he is done for the season than plays vs. Indy.”

In his piece in the Union Tribune, Chao wrote: “The news seems even worse than I thought, and he does not appear close.”

Chao wrote that Tannehill will not play until December at the earliest, noting that “Tannehill’s words tell us there is a tear” of his shoulder capsule.

“We’re … trying to get it to heal up because every time the arm goes through that motion, it stresses that capsule,” Tannehill said Wednesday. “That’s the goal right now is just to let the thing tighten back down, heal up and then get back to throwing during the bye.”

Chao wrote that “the words ‘heal’ and ‘tighten back down’ mean there was at least a partial tear.”

The Dolphins have said there is an injury to his shoulder capsule but not acknowledged any tear.

Chao said it usually takes a minimum of six weeks “before one can stress the capsule…. Once a quarterback can make the throws, it is still typically weeks before he is ready to play.”

Tannehill will miss his fifth consecutive game when the Dolphins play at the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The Dolphins plan to have Tannehill rest his arm for one to two weeks, with the hope that he can return for the Colts game.

But Chao cautions that “the pattern is not [to] start throwing during the bye and play the following week against the Colts. Healing is often slow, as the capsule is bathed in synovial fluid, which is the same reason rotator cuff tears tend to not heal on their own.”

Chao said even though Tannehill insisted the fact he was advised not to throw, for now, is not a setback, it “clearly is at least lack of progress.”

Tannehill said he continues to experience pain when he throws a football and expects to play through pain the rest of the season.

But Chao said “medically, Tannehill should not return to throwing until doing so does not cause pain. If he is in pain, that indicates the capsule is not healed. Thus, if he truly believes he will be in pain all season, there must be a question whether he will return at all in 2018.”

If Tannehill does not return this season, the Dolphins have four options:

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Keep him under terms of his current contract, which would include $18.7 million base salary in 2019, with a $26.6 million cap hit. This option might be difficult to justify if Tannehill misses the final 11 games of the season, after missing 19 games over the previous two seasons because of knee injuries.

Release him without a post June 1 designation. In that scenario, the Dolphins would have $13.4 million in dead money on its 2019 cap as a result of Tannehill’s contract but would have a cap savings of $13.2 million in 2019 and no Tannehill dead money in 2020.

Release Tannehill with a post June 1 designation. The Dolphins would have $7.9 million in dead money on its 2019 cap as a result of Tannehill’s contract but would have a cap savings of $18.75 million. But the flip side of that scenario would be that Miami’s cap would carry another $5.6 million of Tannehill’s dead money in 2020.

Try to convince Tannehill and his agent, Pat Dye, to restructure his contract and accept a lower base salary for 2019.

ANOTHER TIME CHANGE

The NFL has moved the Dolphins-at-Colts games from 1 p.m. to 4:25 p.m. on Nov. 25. It will be one of two games CBS is airing at 4:25 p.m that day, with more of the country likely to get Steelers-Broncos instead.

CBS did the same with this Sunday’s Dolphins-at-Packers game, previously moving it to 4:25 p.m., though much more of the country will get the Seahawks-Rams game instead.

Tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James, both dealing with knee injuries, were again limited in practice.

“They will be sore and banged up all the way up to the game,” Adam Gase said. “I have to see how they’re going to feel on

game day” before knowing for sure if they will play.

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