Long before Carolina Panthers starting middle linebacker Luke Kuechly won the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, he and Miami Dolphins starting quarterback
Tannehill and Kuechly spent many hours together on the practice fields and inside the weight rooms at IMG Academy in Bradenton, just about a three-hour drive from Doctors Hospital Training Facility in Davie. Even though one was an offensive skill player and the other was a defensive stalwart, they ended up helping each other out in many ways, especially since Tannehill was a late arrival due to a foot injury.
“When I was throwing I had broken my foot so I missed the first part of it,” said Tannehill, who was taken one pick ahead of Kuechly in the 2012 NFL Draft by Miami at No. 8 overall. “He’s a great player and we didn’t have any receivers there because I was later because of my foot and Luke’s out there running routes for me, playing tight end. I’m trying to tell him, ‘Hey, Luke calm down, it’s not that serious, you need to spot up and catch,’ and he’s like, ‘No, no I can run the full thing.’ He’s that type of guy, that type of competitor who just wants to play the game and he’s going to go all out.”
Kuechly was just as effusive with his praise of Tannehill this week during his conference call with the South Florida media, recalling how impressed he was with the quarterback’s accuracy and arm strength as the two prepared for the NFL Scouting Combine.
“Yeah, we were down there for whatever it was, six or seven weeks and pretty much we were around each other all day,” Kuechly said. “He’s a good guy and he loves football and he works hard. That’s something you respect about him is he had that foot coming out of college and right when we started training for the Combine he had that foot injury but he came back and it didn’t really set him back at all. He still was on top of everything, ran well at his Pro Day, so he’s a guy that works really hard.”
Of course on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium, the two will have to put their friendship aside for about three hours when the Dolphins and Panthers square off in a pivotal game for both teams. Kuechly will try to remember some triggers he might have seen in Bradenton prior to the snap of the ball in an effort to anticipate where Tannehill is going with the ball and Tannehill will no doubt try to take advantage of any tendencies he picked up during their time together.
But when the final whistle blows, expect these two to meet up at midfield, shake hands and reminisce a little bit before moving on.
THIS AND THAT
Football coaches always preach executing in all three phases of the game and Head Coach Joe Philbin illustrated that this morning by paying special attention to the special teams inside the bubble. He was right there in the mix during kickoff coverage. … With center
TGIF OVER THE LOUDSPEAKER
Typically on Friday the practices are a little shorter, which means there is less time to feel the beat from the stretching music. This time it was a trip back to the 1990s with Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray” leading things off. After that there was only time for one more song and it was “California Love,” by 2Pac featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman.
THE LAST WORD
“I probably played against these guys 15 or 16 times and last year was pretty special. We kicked a walk-off field goal at the end of the game to win it so that was pretty nice.” – right tackle