MIAMI — Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will prepare this week as the team’s starter for Sunday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, coach Mike McDaniel said, marking his return to the football field after spending the last two weeks in concussion protocol.
Tagovailoa began football activities last week and approved concussion protocol on Saturday, but was inactive for the Dolphins’ loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 6. McDaniel said he felt “really good to bring Tagovailoa back to the training ground and liked the way he responded. This will mark his first full week of practice since Week 3 and McDaniel said the impact of his return to the roster is palpable.
“He’s a captain. He’s a captain for a reason, and like I told you from the start, I think he’s a very, very good player in that position,” McDaniel said. “So really good players, they definitely give people a boost – not because of what others aren’t, but more just because he is who he is. So it’s a strong fabric of this team, and it’s exciting when you go play with one of your brothers, that’s why the team will be excited, and it will be exciting.”
Tagovailoa hasn’t played since Miami’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 29, when he suffered a concussion that resulted in a brief hospitalization after hitting his head on the ground. The game came four days after a similar incident against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 25, when Tagovailoa hit his head on the ground and tripped while trying to return to huddle.
He was assessed for a concussion at halftime of that Bills game, but passed his exam. Tagovailoa and the team later clarified that it was a previously sustained back injury that caused the trip.
The Dolphins lost both games missed by Tagovailoa, taking their record to 3-3 after starting the season with three straight wins. At the time of his injury, Tagovailoa led the NFL in QBR and ranked second in passing yards and third in passing touchdowns. He was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 2 after throwing for 469 yards and 6 touchdowns — both career highs — in a comeback win over the Baltimore Ravens.
McDaniel said he spoke with Tagovailoa about finding a balance between fighting to keep a game alive and learning when to accept that a given game won’t work.
“There are risks in this game and you have to be able to control the controllable elements,” McDaniel said. “One thing for him is you like his competitive nature, but there’s a point in a game where you kind of have to concede, and that’s where he sort of focuses because that’s is something that doesn’t come naturally to him. He wants to break every tackle, and he doesn’t like it when plays don’t work. Well, sometimes they don’t work.
“So it’s something that he’s aware of, and I think it’s a consistency of all the really good quarterbacks that you think of, guys that you look up to, guys that kind of set an example of the way to play the position, they find ways to be available. And part of that is that concession, but that’s – all things considered, that’s probably a good problem to have in terms of a competitor. You just have to being able to understand your importance to the team and how sometimes the best play you can make is a throwaway.”
Miami’s offense has been on a steep decline without Tagovailoa on the field. In the first three weeks of the season, the Dolphins ranked first and second in the league in points per practice and expected offensive points added, respectively. They have since fallen to 28th in offensive EPA and 29th in points per player.
Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson started the matches in place of Tagovailoa, but both were forced off their only start due to concussion protocol and a thumb injury, respectively. Dolphins offensive lineman Robert Hunt said after Sunday’s game that injuries are “part of the business” of the NFL, and added Monday that while Tagovailoa’s return would be galvanizing, they have a job to do. do, no matter who the quarterback is.
“Tua is Tua – Tua is our leader,” Hunt said. “He’s the guy running the show and we’d be happy to get him back. But exactly what you said – if he’s not and it’s someone else there, we we still have to do our job and try to play a game and win a game.”
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