38 days after concussion, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa finally clears league protocol


Before injuries took their toll, Tua Tagovailoa was having a breakout year, leading the NFL in both quarterback rating (105.5) and yards per attempt (8.9). However, his season was quickly turned upside down, putting his career in jeopardy by suffering three concussions in as many months. Tagovailoa’s latest setback occurred in Week 16, struggling to remember details from the Dolphins’ game against the Packers on Christmas Day.

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Tagovailoa has since recovered, finally getting cleared by doctors a full month after entering the league’s protocol. While many in the media had speculated Tua might retire or take the year off, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network confirms Tagovailoa will be “fully ready” for offseason workouts.

Whether a product of bad luck, his relative lack of size (6’1”/217) or an inability to anticipate pressure, Tagovailoa’s health concerns make him a difficult player to commit to long-term, with the deadline fast approaching for Miami to exercise his fifth-year option (May 1st). The Dolphins, as well as the league’s independent spotter, faced significant backlash for how they handled an injury Tua suffered in Week 3, prompting a rule change preventing players from re-entering the game after showing signs of “gross motor instability.”

The Tua saga has been the subject of fierce debate, with some fans calling on the 24-year-old to retire, citing his risk for CTE, among other degenerative conditions associated with brain trauma. Others would argue that Tagovailoa knew the sacrifice he was making, privy to football’s inherent danger and what it could cost him later in life. While the latter is undoubtedly true, that doesn’t preclude the NFL from doing all it can to protect players from themselves, whether that’s by changing the rules to prevent quarterbacks from taking unnecessary contact or experimenting with new safety methods, like the “Guardian” caps used during training camp last summer.

The $25.6 million Tagovailoa has pocketed since debuting in 2020 is more than enough to live on, though his ambitions are no doubt complicated by the looming prospect of generational wealth, which will come when he signs his next contract. Tagovailoa, by all accounts, still sees football as a major part of his identity and isn’t ready to close that chapter of his life, even amid his current health predicament (his parents have said as much, reiterating to local media that Tua will be up and running for the 2023 season). Let’s just hope he knows when to tap out.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig, Getty Images