Dolphins say Tannehill’s knee injury not as bad as first feared

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Ryan Tannehill was back at the Miami Dolphins’ complex Monday, his left knee injury less serious than first feared.

The injury was diagnosed as a sprained ACL and MCL, coach Adam Gase said, meaning Tannehill will avoid surgery.

It remains unlikely he’ll play again this season, and Matt Moore will make his first start since 2011 on Saturday against the New York Jets.

When Tannehill was hurt Sunday against Arizona, the Dolphins (8-5) feared a torn ACL that would require surgery and a long, arduous rehabilitation. The Dolphins learned the final diagnosis late Sunday.

"Better than what we thought," Gase said. "I was happy for him. That’s a hard injury to come back from and rehab. It’s a long, long process."

ACL surgery generally requires at least a nine-month recovery. Gase said the Dolphins don’t know how long Tannehill will be sidelined by the sprained knee, but it’s questionable whether he would be available even deep into the postseason.

"It’s not going to be one game," Gase said. "It will be longer than that."

Tannehill should be available to take part in the Dolphins’ offseason program, however.

While he was at the team complex Monday, Moore was absent — his wife was having their third child. But he’ll soon be cramming as the new No. 1 quarterback.

"Matt is going to go hard," teammate Byron Maxwell said. "He’s going to go down fighting. He’s not afraid of the moment. He’s ready for it."

Tannehill limped out of Sunday’s win in the third quarter after being hit by defensive tackle Calais Campbell as he released a completion. Miami led 21-9 when Tannehill was hurt and won 26-23 on a last-second field goal.

The victory didn’t lighten the Dolphins’ glum mood. Tannehill was red-eyed on the sideline as the game ended and left the stadium on crutches.

"We’ve got to rally and try to finish this thing for him," safety Michael Thomas said. "He was having a great season. Everybody was rallying behind him. So it’s tough.

"Everybody is emotional about it. But it’s a next-man-up mentality, and we’ve just got to find a way to keep this thing rolling."

After a slow start when he came off the bench against Arizona, Moore led a late drive that ended with the game-winning field goal.

The Dolphins won for the seventh time in the past eight games and forged a tie with Denver in the race for the final AFC wild-card berth.

Only two Dolphins on the active roster have been with the team longer than Moore, a 10-year veteran who joined Miami in 2011.

He has 25 starts but none since the Dolphins drafted the durable Tannehill, who started 77 consecutive games in his first five NFL seasons despite taking 213 sacks.

Moore has thrown 16 passes in the past four seasons, including five Sunday. He has a 13-12 record as a starter — giving him a career winning percentage better than Tannehill — but this week will be the first time Moore has started for a team with a winning record.

Moore has 33 touchdown passes, 28 interceptions and a reputation for being an aggressive risk-taker.

"I know Matt will do whatever we need him to do to win a game," Gase said. "I like the fact that he’s not afraid to scramble outside the pocket and kind of play a little looser than a lot of coaches like. I like calling plays for him, because you never know what you’re going to experience in that play."

The new backup quarterback is expected to be rookie Brandon Doughty, a seventh-round draft pick from Western Kentucky who grew up near the Dolphins’ complex.

Tannehill likely finishes 2016 with career highs in passer rating (93.5), completion rate (67.1 percent) and yards per attempt (7.7).

It has been his first year working with Gase, a quarterback expert who frequently praised Tannehill for his improvement — and resilience.

"I don’t know if I’ve been around anybody tougher," Gase said. "The guy has taken a lot shots since I’ve been here, unfortunately. He just keeps bouncing back."

On Saturday the Dolphins will also be without center Mike Pouncey, who won’t practice this week, Gase said.

It will be the fifth game in a row Pouncey has missed because of a hip injury that has limited him to five games this season.