By all accounts, Tua Tagovailoa is determined to play as many games as he physically can.
When he 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 for the final two weeks of the regular season would be detrimental to his overall health.
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Tagovailoa suffered his third concussion in three months during a Christmas Day game against the Packers.
On Monday, Miami head coach Mike McDaniel confirmed that Tagovailoa was in the concussion protocol. Now, there’s a debate about whether the quarterback should return to center anytime soon.
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In September, Tagovailoa suffered a terrible head injury when he took a severe blow during a Week 4 game against the Bengals. He was hospitalized and did not play for the Dolphins for the next two games. The quarterback then returned to the field in Week 7.
Tagovailoa had taken another heavy blow four days before the Bengals game in a matchup with the Buffalo Bills. He appeared to be displaying concussion symptoms, but he was evaluated and remained in the game, sparking controversy throughout the league.
The NFL responded by altering its concussion protocol to require that any player who appears to have concussion symptoms may not return to a game.
It’s unclear exactly when Tagovailoa suffered his most recent head injury, but his head hit the grass when he was tackled late in the second quarter against Green Bay.
Tagovailoa said in October that injuries like the one he suffered against the Bengals have more impact on the people around him than on him personally.
“I would say that those kinds of things weigh more heavily on my parents than on me, just because I am 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 what’s right for this organization, do what’s right for the guys inside the building that I see every day working so hard. That’s it. I mean, I enjoy being here. I enjoy all the guys in the building. So when I can’t do something about it and help our team and our organization, that really sucks.”
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Several former NFL players took to social media to suggest that 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 about Tua and his longevity than whether he’s going to 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 be playing anymore this season if the NFL is serious about health, safety and concussion.”
Pro football Hall of Famer Charles Woodson suggested Tagovailoa consider walking away from football.
“Just watching the news about tua…if indeed it’s another concussion, he’s given a lot of thought to continuing to play this game ever again…period,” Woodson wrote on Twitter.
Former Packers running back Gary Ellerson also leaned into Tagovailoa, calling it a run.
Apart from his health problems, Tagovailoa is at a professional crossroads. Despite a strong start to the season and setting career highs this season in virtually every stat, the Dolphins have lost their last four games.
Previously, the franchise didn’t seem fully committed to the quarterback for the future. In August, team owner Stephen Ross was fined by the league for violating his policy against tampering in an attempt to sign Tom Brady.
The Dolphins also lost a first-round pick in next year’s draft and a third-round pick in the 2024 draft. Ross was suspended until Oct. 17.
Tagovailoa also had a turbulent relationship with his former head coach Brian Flores.
With Tagovailoa in concussion protocol, veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will take first-team replays in practice. The Dolphins have not said whether Tagovailoa will play this weekend if he is cleared by a doctor.
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Miami is ranked #7 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.