At long last, Tua Tagovailoa has arrived, quelling the Miami Dolphins’ anxieties as preparations begin for the 2020 season. The team’s fifth-overall draftee has been risky business from the beginning, unable to be put through traditional evaluations prior to being drafted.
Now, team doctors and trainers have full agency to work with their young quarterback, who Dwyane Wade sees as the next big star on the Miami sports scene, at the team training facility in Davie.
Like if pineapple doesn't belong on pizza 🍕
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) June 18, 2020
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Prior to this week, Tagovailoa was in Alabama, rehabbing the posterior wall fracture he sustained in November when the Alabama Crimson Tide faced Mississippi State. His sessions with his team were coordinated between his physical therapist, Kevin Wilk, and Kyle Johnston, the Dolphin’s head athletic trainer. His recovery so far has been “miraculous,” according to Wilk.
“The miraculous part is that he healed so well,” Wilk told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “The second part is, he’s been so well at getting his strength back, which usually takes a long time after something like this.”
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 17, 2020
While the Davie facilities are not yet open to all players due to restrictions brought on by COVID-19, Tagovailoa is eligible to train there as a player whose rehab in deemed medically necessary, joining a small group of teammates who have been working with the Dolphins trainers and therapists for nearly a month. According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the team’s staff are under the impression that their new signal-caller is “all systems go.”
As Tagovailoa’s injury is to his right hip, it is far easier to manage for the left-handed quarterback. And with these votes of confidence from the staff stand up, there’s a chance the rookie might see the field a lot earlier than expected.
“I’m his biggest cheerleader right now, but I also want to be out there playing,” Fitzpatrick told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I also want to be on the field, and that’s why I’m still doing it is because I still enjoy playing the game.”
Ryan Fitzpatrick provided some incredible perspective to @EWood70 on his "What's Next" podcast on mentoring Tua Tagovailoa while also competing for the starting job. Strongly recommend reading his full thoughts. pic.twitter.com/UjyRP6GXUK
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 19, 2020
But according to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report, multiple coaches believe that it is a “foregone conclusion” that Tagovailoa will take the reins from Fitzpatrick as quickly as the team’s Week 1 matchup with the New England Patriots.
It’s almost impossible to pit the two quarterbacks against each other right now without firm evidence of how far along Tagovailoa is, and not having seen Fitzpatrick in action in a while (last year, he led the team in rushing yards). Between the veteran’s age (37) and the rookie’s injury, it’s too premature to expect any decisions any time soon.
But there is plenty of time for the quarterbacks to prove themselves, and the Dolphins would be hard-pressed to find a better mentor for their future franchise quarterback than the one they have. And Tagovailoa’s early comparisons to Steve Young, another leftie, are just another reminder of his capabilities as a rookie.