Published November 23, 2012
MIAMI – The two rookie quarterbacks on opposite coasts in opposite conferences bonded while training together over the summer. They've stayed in touch during the season, swapping text messages this week even as their teams prepared to meet Sunday.
Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill wished each other good luck — sort of.
"Hopefully he doesn't have one of his better games against us," Tannehill said with a smile.
The pair of precocious passers can compare their first-year progress when Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins (4-6) host Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks (6-4). It's only the third game this season to match two rookie quarterbacks from the stellar group that also includes Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, Washington's Robert Griffin III and Cleveland's Brandon Weeden, all starters since the season opener.
"I'm very proud of this rookie class," Wilson said. "There are a lot of guys playing. It's pretty fascinating just how many guys we have. It's a tremendous thing to be able to play in the National Football League at such a young age. For that to continue down the road, we're going to be playing for a long time, and that's the great thing about it."
Wilson and the Seahawks are on the upswing of late, with consecutive wins before a bye last week. Among the five rookies, he has attempted the fewest passes but lead them all through 10 games with 15 touchdown throws. His rating of 90.5 trails only Griffin's 104.6. Only one rookie — Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger — finished his first year with a higher completion average than Wilson's 62 percent.
By contrast, the Dolphins and Tannehill have lost three games in a row, in part because he hit a rough patch after making steady strides early in the season. He went 107 passes without an interception, then threw five in the past two games. He's tied for 31st in the NFL with only six touchdown passes, and among the rookies, his rating of 70.8 ranks ahead of only Weeden.
"Ryan is fine," teammate Reggie Bush said. "It's just growing pains. We all got to go through them."
Despite Tannehill's slump, he's already earning mentions in the same sentence as Dan Marino. Tannehill needs only 91 yards passing to break the team rookie record of 2,210 set by the Pro Football Hall of Famer in 1983.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, Tannehill's head coach at Texas A&M, said he's encouraged that the young quarterback learns quickly from his mistakes.
"He has great recall of everything that happens on the field," Sherman said. "He can tell you exactly where all 11 guys are on the field, why he made the decision. He also will say that wasn't a good decision. ...
"I don't see him regressing. But if you don't win, the quarterback's not going to look very good."
Wilson hasn't looked very good on the road, where the Seahawks are 1-4. He has thrown for four touchdowns with eight interceptions in those games, while at home — where Seattle is unbeaten — he has 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Now he and the Seahawks will make the NFL's longest trip to a hostile setting and kick off at 10 a.m. Seattle time. The rookie figures he can make the necessary adjustments.
"Like I always say, a hundred yards is a hundred yards," Wilson said.
Motivation won't be a problem, not with the Seahawks in the thick of NFC playoff race, and not when bragging rights with Tannehill are at stake. They became good friends training together this summer at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
"There's a huge competitiveness, not because we're friends, but because I'm playing for the Seahawks and he's playing for the Dolphins," Wilson said. "That's the way I look at it. I'm trying to help our team win."
Wilson faces a fellow rookie QB for the first time, while Tannehill and the Dolphins lost a month ago to Luck and the Colts. Luck also has a win over Weeden and the Browns.
Win or lose, Tannehill said, the five rookies share the same approach as they settle into promising pro careers.
"It is a matter of growing up quickly and learning quickly," he said. "And not making the same mistake twice."
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this story.
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