Home Sports Let’s take a deep breath and first focus on Tua Tagovailoa’s long-term health | Habib

Let’s take a deep breath and first focus on Tua Tagovailoa’s long-term health | Habib

Let’s take a deep breath and first focus on Tua Tagovailoa’s long-term health | Habib

MIAMI GARDENS — Everything the Dolphins have worked for in 2022 is right in front of them, but Sunday’s game at New England shouldn’t be, can’t be and probably won’t be foremost in their minds.

Tua Tagovailoa has to be their concern today. Not whether he can get cleared in time to play against the Patriots or the Jets or in the playoffs. Not whether he gets to play against anybody.

It’s who he gets to play with. Namely, someday, his kids.

Tua in protocol:Dolphins QB Tuspan Tspangovspanilospan in concussion protocol spangspanin; Teddy Bridgewspanter prepspanres to stspanrt

Downward spiral:Dolphins snowbspanlling downhill, spannd it’s up to Tuspan Tspangovspanilospan to stop it | Hspanbib

If that sounds overly dramatic to you, maybe it’s because you haven’t met ex-players who sustained one (or more) too many hits to the head. You haven’t met relatives of retired players trying to sort out all that football gave their family, all that football took from their family, and what the net balance between the two really is.

There’s still much we don’t know about Tagovailoa’s condition now. The only certainties are that he didn’t feel like himself when he woke up Monday. And he quickly landed in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers hugs Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins on the field after the game at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 25, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Florida.

That set in motion a frenzy not unlike what we witnessed in late September when Tagovailoa went down, even though — for now, anyway — Here’s something else we don’t know: how and when Tagovailoa was hurt.

For all those jumping up and down, I urge you to take a deep breath and re-read the previous sentence, understanding that the key word is “know.” We’ve all seen the clip on social media of the play late in the second quarter when Green Bay Packers linebacker Kingsley Enagbare makes a shoestring tackle on Tagovailoa as he releases a pass. As Tagovailoa goes down, he spins and the back of his head hits the turf — a sight Dolphins fans have seen before.

Tua Tagovailoa's helmet hits the turf at Hard Rock Stadium late in the second quarter of Sunday's loss to the Packers.

It’s more than logical to suspect that’s what caused harm, especially when you consider how Tagovailoa’s performance deteriorated after that play.

It’s more than logical to suspect Tagovailoa does in fact have a concussion, that it’s not his first of this season, not his second and more likely his third.

And it’s logical, all this is accurate, that Tagovailoa should not take another snap for the Dolphins this season. We’ll get to what happens beyond that in a minute, but for now, keep in mind that the intersection of Tagovailoa’s long-term health and the Dolphins’ long-term future is a minefield to navigate. This happens when business decisions get in the way of football and personal decisions.

Getting back to the immediate future, if Tagovailoa has a concussion, it wouldn’t be in his best interest to return this season; it also wouldn’t be in the Dolphins’ best interest. Some football coaches grasp this better than others. Mike McDaniel, I believe, has his priorities straight.

“I just want guys to really be done right by the information we have, the science and all the medical expertise that we rely on,” McDaniel said Monday, a couple of hours after getting hit with this news. “I care very deeply about each and every player. I take that seriously, so I just want him to get healthy and have peace of mind in that regard. That’s first and foremost, and then whatever the circumstances are after, you deal with after. It’s about the human being and making sure he’s squared away.”

Tua Tagovailoa didn’t show symptoms after Packers game

Critics might argue that if McDaniel cares so much about Tagovailoa, he should have noticed something was amiss around halftime. No. Sitting just a few feet from the podium postgame, I found Tagovailoa to not only appear fine and alert, but in somewhat better spirits than expected considering he’d suffered his fourth straight loss. He began and ended by wishing everyone a merry Christmas, answered every question and took full responsibility for the defeat.

He seemed like Tua.

Some of the focus involves comparing how Tagovailoa played before the hit and after. That’s more on point.

Before the hit: He was 9-of-12 for 229 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 144.4 passer rating. He led the Dolphins to 20 points.

After the hit: He was 7-of-13 for 81 yards, no touchdowns, three interceptions and a 33.3 rating. The Dolphins didn’t score again and lost 26-20. The interceptions were terrible throws, nothing close to what he showed while establishing himself as the NFL’s most accurate passer this season.

That’s all circumstantial. Who’s to say if the cause was a bad injury or a bad day? Even on the second interception, Tagovailoa blamed himself, saying he may have called the wrong play in the huddle. Was he confused at that point? Could be. But knowing Tagovailoa, I can see him covering for a teammate. Back in the locker room, running back Raheem Mostert was admitting it was his fault. He’d run the wrong route.

Over these next days and weeks, you’d like to think the medical professionals offer the best advice to Tagovailoa and that he and his family take whatever advice they give. You’d like to think the league’s protocol will inspire more confidence than it did in September, when Tagovailoa wasn’t pulled from a game when he should have been and when backup Teddy Bridgewater was pulled from a game when he shouldn’t have been. Why was it left to a sharp-eyed fan to post the suspicious hit on social media Sunday night? Did the spotter at the game whiff?

Tagovailoa is a newlywed three months shy of his 25th birthday. He must understand concussions and traumatic brain injury aren’t just about the now. The effects are cumulative. Some, permanent.

Aaron Rodgers to Tagovailoa: Take care of yourself

Scores of retired NFL players stepped forward Tuesday urging Tagovailoa to shut it down, some for the season, some for good. They don’t have all the information necessary to make such a call. Better to take the route Packers QB Aaron Rodgers did when he chatted with Tagovailoa postgame.

“I told him to take care of himself, too,” Rodgers said. “He’s had some pretty vicious hits this year. But he’s a good kid. He’s got a long career in the league to look forward to.”

The league. Oh, yes. It’s a business, you may have heard, and before you know it, the Dolphins will face one of the most important business decisions they’ll ever make. Tagovailoa was drafted in the first round in 2020, which means they must decide whether to trigger a fifth-year option on his contract to cover the 2024 season. Overthecap.com projects it would cost Miami $22.7 million.

The period in which to do so begins in less than two weeks (Jan. 9) and ends May 1. That’s basically when the Dolphins must decide not only if Tagovailoa has the skills to be The Guy, but also the body.

Answers that may have once seemed clear are decidedly less so today. And the irony is that the same day Tagovailoa returned to concussion protocol, the player Miami bypassed, Justin Herbert, clinched his first playoff berth. More ammunition for sports-talk radio, that is.

Right now, there are more important things to worry about.


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