If the Miami Dolphins want to beat the Buffalo Bills in the Super Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs, they’ll need to do it without their top quarterback — and potentially without their backup as well.
The Dolphins ruled out starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on January 11, with head coach Mike McDaniel saying he was not cleared after being placed in concussion protocol on December 26.
“As of today, Tua has not been cleared by doctors to resume football activities on the field with his teammates, so because of that and because of the time that he’s missed, I can rule him out for Sunday,” McDaniel said, via NFL.com.
McDaniel added that veteran backup Teddy Bridgewater is also working his way back from a finger injury, which would put rookie third-stringer Skylar Thompson in line to start.
Question Marks at Quarterback for Dolphins
The Dolphins played their final two games of the season without Tagovailoa, losing to the New England Patriots in Week 17 before beating the New York Jets in Week 18 to finish the season 9-8 and secure the final playoff spot in the AFC.
McDaniel said with Tagovailoa’s previous concussion this season, it was important to focus on his health this week and the team made the early call that he would not be playing against the Bills.
“I’m just thinking about his day, and him getting to full health as a human being,” McDaniel said. “And then when it’s time to turn the page, I’ll turn the page, but I’m pretty over integrity and principle to a fault, and stubborn as all get-out, so if I hear that’s the way that I should approach it I will approach it that way, and I do not deviate. So, the next step is really for him to be fully through this protocol, and then we can see where the land lays, so to speak, but outside of that, I’m just worried about him.”
Tagovailoa had some success against the Bills this season, leading the Dolphins to a 21-19 victory in Week 3 and throwing for 234 yards in a 32-29 loss in Week 15.
McDaniel added that Bridgewater is working hard toward getting back, but has a ways to go and the team is preparing for Thompson to be the starting quarterback.
“That’s not an easy thing to do, and as it stands right now, he’s working to prepare himself to be capable on Sunday,” McDaniel said. “But as a result of that, he can’t afford any setbacks or really anything that’s conflicting against the healing process in the week.”
Dolphins Face Questions Over Tua Tagovailoa’s Injury
As ESPN’s Elizabeth Merrill and Marcel Louis-Jacques noted, the Dolphins have faced some criticism regarding Tagovailoa’s injury history this season. The Dolphins quarterback stumbled after suffering what appeared to be a head injury in the Week 3 loss to the Bills, but returned to the game and the team said afterward that he did not suffer a concussion.
Some medical experts disputed that assertion, the report noted.
“Two renowned concussion experts told ESPN that Tagovailoa’s head trauma during the Bills game had the appearance of a concussion,” the report noted. “Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of the department of neurosurgery at NorthShore University Health System, said that’s significant because three concussions in a finite period is generally the threshold that requires a player to be held out for an extended amount of time, possibly months.”