While rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will start for Miami on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, the Dolphins will be without their reliable backup quarterback as a safety net as they fight for a playoff berth.
According to NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero, Ryan Fitzpatrick missed practice on Thursday due to a positive COVID-19 test, and he will be unavailable for Sunday's contest against his former team.
Pelissero also reports that the NFL conducted its usual contact tracing after the positive test, and no other Dolphins players were deemed as being a close contact of Fitzpatrick, including Tagovailoa.
With Fitzpatrick being unavailable this week, free agent quarterback Jake Rudock has been added to the Dolphins' active 53-man roster. Rudock has been on and off the Miami practice squad over the past two seasons after being a sixth round pick of the Detroit Lions in the 2016 NFL Draft out of Michigan.
Since being pushed to the backup role back in October, Fitzpatrick has served as a mentor and that safety net for the Dolphins in certain circumstances. In his six starts at the beginning of the season, Fitzpatrick went 3-3, while going 138-of-197 for 1,535 yards and 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions.
Since the Dolphins' bye week, Fitzpatrick has appeared in three more games, starting one of them, while going 45-of-70 for 556 yards and three touchdowns to one interception. In his three appearances, Fitzpatrick has helped lead Miami to two wins, including a come-from-behind victory in Week 16 over the Raiders in Las Vegas after Tagovailoa went just 17-of-22 for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Miami's path to the playoffs is pretty simple heading into their matchup with the Bills: Win and the Dolphins are in. However, if the Dolphins fall behind and need to find a spark if Tagovailoa struggles off the start, they will have to look to Rudock, who has only played in three games in the NFL for the Lions in 2017.
Tagovailoa has had his ups-and-downs to start his NFL career in Miami. While his stats have looked good on paper with a 6-2 record, a 65.1% completion rate, 1,453 passing yards and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 10:2, he has struggled, at times, with some timing issues and getting the offense clicking at the right time.
As for Fitzpatrick, he will not make his return to Orchard Park this season, where he spent four years with the Bills from 2008 to 2012. In that time, Fitzpatrick became a fan favorite, despite the team's failures of making the playoffs. He finished his career in Buffalo with a 20-33 record, while throwing for 11,654 yards, 80 touchdowns and 64 interceptions.
The Bills and Dolphins will kick things off at 1 p.m. EST at Bills Stadium on Sunday. You can hear all the action on WGR with John Murphy, Steve Tasker and Sal Capaccio on the call.