By all accounts, Tua Tagovailoa is determined to play every game he’s physically able to.
When he has played, the Dolphins quarterback was in the league MVP conversation earlier in the year.
But the 24-year-old has suffered three concussions, and the Dolphins will have to decide if playing him during the last two weeks of the regular season would be a detriment to his overall health.
Tagovailoa suffered his third concussion in three months during a Christmas Day game against the Packers.
On Monday, Miami head coach Mike McDaniel confirmed Tagovailoa was in concussion protocol. Now, there is a debate about whether the quarterback should be back under center any time soon.
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In September, Tagovailoa suffered a scary head injury when he was hit hard during a Week 4 game against the Bengals. He was hospitalized and sat out of the Dolphins next two games. The quarterback later returned to the field in Week 7.
Tagovailoa had taken another hard hit four days before the Bengals game in a matchup with the Buffalo Bills. He appeared to show concussion symptoms but was evaluated and stayed in the game, sparking controversy across the league.
The NFL responded by altering its concussion protocol to mandate that any player who appears to have concussion symptoms be restricted from returning to a game.
It is unclear when exactly Tagovailoa suffered the most recent head injury, but his head did hit the turf when he was tackled late in the second quarter in the game against Green Bay.
Tagovailoa said in October that injuries like the one he suffered against the Bengals have more of an impact on the people around him than him personally.
“I would say those kinds of things weigh more on my parents than they do for me, just with me being their son,” he said in October. “But, I mean, I just want to go out there and do good — do good for our team, do right for this organization, do right for the guys inside the building that I see every day that work really hard. That’s all. I mean, I enjoy being here. I enjoy all the guys in the building. So when I’m not able to do something about it and help our team and our organization, then that just really sucks.”
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Several former NFL players took to social media to suggest the Dolphins shut down Tagovailoa for the final two games of the regular season.
Former quarterback Robert Griffin III wrote, “Tua’s long term health is more important than playing again this year.”
Griffin also spoke on “Monday Night Countdown” and urged Tagovailoa to protect himself.
“I’m more concerned with Tua and his longevity of life than I am whether he’s gonna play on Sunday,” Griffin said. “Tua shouldn’t play anymore this year. Put the person before the player.”
Two-time Super Bowl champion Booger McFarland shared similar sentiments, saying, “Tua Tagovailoa shouldn’t play anymore this season if the NFL is serious about health and safety and concussions.”
Pro Football Hall of Famer Charles Woodson suggested Tagovailoa consider stepping away from football.
“Just seeing the news about tua.. if indeed it’s another concussion he has think long and hard about continuing to play this game ever again.. period,” Woodson wrote on Twitter.
Ex-Packers running back Gary Ellerson also leaned toward Tagovailoa calling it a career.
Aside from his health concerns, Tagovailoa is at somewhat of a career crossroads. Despite a hot start to the season and setting career highs this season in virtually every passing statistic, the Dolphins have lost their last four games.
The franchise has not previously seemed to be completely committed to the quarterback for the future. In August, team owner Stephen Ross was fined by the league for violating its anti-tampering policies in an attempt to sign Tom Brady.
The Dolphins also forfeited a first-round selection in next year’s draft and a third-round selection in the 2024 draft. Ross was suspended through Oct. 17.
Tagovailoa also had a turbulent relationship with his former head coach Brian Flores.
With Tagovailoa in the concussion protocol, veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will take first-team reps at practice. The Dolphins have not said if Tagovailoa will play this weekend if he is medically cleared.
Miami sits in the No. 7 spot in the AFC playoff picture. Winning the final two games of the season would end the franchise’s six-year playoff drought.
The Dolphins end the season with games against the Patriots and the Jets.
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