AP Sports Writer
MIAMI — Forgive rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill if he looks lost. Since joining the Miami Dolphins, he has been trying to get around town without using a GPS.
Driving home one day from the team complex, Tannehill was determined to find his way without navigational help. He overshot his apartment and wound up on Alligator Alley.
“I ended up missing an exit and was halfway to the Everglades before I turned around,” he said with a rueful smile.
There are sure to be moments of confusion for Tannehill on the field, too, but so far the Dolphins like what they see. Even his competition for playing time raves about the rookie.
“Hey, he can spin it. He definitely can throw the ball”' incumbent quarterback Matt Moore said recently following the first of the Dolphins' offseason organized team activities. “He's quiet right now, but you can tell he's definitely a quality, quality player. I'm looking forward to getting to see him play more.”
It's been many years since a rookie quarterback joined the Dolphins with the lofty expectations that accompany Tannehill. Some of that stems from desperation. Since Dan Marino retired following the 1999 season, the Dolphins have started 16 quarterbacks, the most in the NFL.
Tannehill was selected eighth overall in last month's draft, making him the first QB taken in the opening round by the Dolphins since Marino in 1983.
It's unlikely he'll beat out Moore and veteran David Garrard to start the season opener. But it wouldn't be surprising if the rookie sees significant action before the season is over.
Working against Tannehill is his lack of experience at quarterback. He started just 19 games there at Texas A&M after switching from receiver.
On the other hand, his progress with the Dolphins should be accelerated because he's so familiar with the offense. His college coach, new Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, brought along the A&M playbook.
As Tannehill lined up to run a play during that first practice, he paused before taking the snap to tell tight end Michael Egnew he was lined up wrong. Garrard, 34, said it's weird to be around a rookie quarterback who already knows everyone's assignments.
“They usually come in with a question mark on their face and have starry eyes trying to figure out what's going on,” Garrard said. “But this is the offense he ran in college, or a lot of it.”
As a result, Garrard and Moore find themselves getting help from the rookie.
“A lot of times he's giving us tips on things,” Garrard said.
While the two veteran quarterbacks praise Tannehill, he appreciates the way they've accepted him.
“From day one, they kind of welcomed me into the quarterback room,” he said. “I was kind of wondering how it was going to be walking into that room but they're great guys.”
Sorting out the pecking order at the position will likely be the most scrutinized decision this year by new coach Joe Philbin, who helped groom Aaron Rodgers to succeed Brett Favre with the Green Bay Packers.
With the first game nearly four months away, Philbin's not about to tip his hand on which way he's leaning.
“We want a competitive situation at that position, as well as the other positions,” Philbin said. “These guys work hard; they deserve the opportunity to compete for a job on this team, a starting position on this team. The quarterback position, in my mind, is no different from other positions. I like the group of guys that we have. We have a million miles to go and so we will see how it shakes out.”
Photo: Ryan Tannehill