MIAMI — Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa won’t play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, coach Mike McDaniel said Wednesday, but he will return to the practice field for football activities for the first time in nearly two weeks.
Rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson will make his first career start with Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater in concussion protocol on Sunday. The Dolphins’ only other healthy quarterback is practice squad quarterback Reid Sinnett; McDaniel said it’s too early to tell if they need to raise him for Sunday’s game.
Tagovailoa has been cleared by several independent neurologists to resume limited football activity, McDaniel said, which would put him in Phase 3 of the NFL’s return protocol for participation. It will be Tagovailoa’s first practice session since suffering a concussion in a Sept. 29 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“In those situations you rely on all the medical advice and what people can do and what we’ve been told is he can go out and throw and do some individual work this week,” McDaniel said. “So that’s exciting for everyone just because we really miss his personality. He’s a guy we rely on, not to mention all his game and stuff.
“Now speaking and playing about this week I don’t see a scenario – I don’t see him active. I have no intention of letting him play at all.”
There is a “definite scenario” where Tagovailoa will delete the concussion log this week, but McDaniel said it would be a disservice to Tagovailoa and the team if he played him on Sunday.
“He literally didn’t do anything on the football field for two weeks,” McDaniel said. “So I don’t think that would be fair to the player. It wouldn’t be fair to the team…I don’t feel comfortable putting him in that situation.”
Tagovailoa was briefly hospitalized after banging his head on the turf during the Bengals game, which came four days after a similar headbutt and trip on his way back to the huddle against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 25. He was assessed for a concussion during halftime of the Bills game but returned to the game after it was discovered that a previously reported back injury had caused the stumble.
The NFL Players Association prompted a review of the league’s concussion protocol after Tagovailoa’s quick return to the game, eventually exercising its right to fire the Independent Neurotrauma Counselor (UNC) who conducted its initial concussion assessment. The NFLPA believed that UNC made “several errors” during the trial, multiple sources told ESPN, including not examining his back during the initial concussion assessment.
The NFL and NFLPA last weekend agreed on an amended concussion protocol that included ataxia as a “no-go” symptom — which would require any player exhibiting ataxia, defined as “an abnormality in balance/stability, motor coordination.” or the language disorder caused”. due to a “neurological problem”, removed from a game and banned from returning.
The Dolphins became the first team to experience the changed protocol in a 40-17 loss to the New York Jets last Sunday when Bridgewater, who started in place of Tagovailoa, was pulled out of the game after a hard hit in Miami’s first offensive game . A stand-ATC spotter thought he saw Bridgewater display ataxia after the hit, and he was immediately placed on the record for concussion. He was not diagnosed with a concussion and showed no symptoms at initial or follow-up visits.
Bridgewater has not yet resumed football activity on Wednesday, McDaniel said, but will do so during Thursday’s practice session. Even if he clears the concussion record by Sunday’s game, the Dolphins are moving forward with Thompson as the starter.
The 2022 seven-round pick completed 16 of 33 passes for 166 yards and one interception in Bridgewater’s relief against the Jets. He also lost a critical fumble in the fourth quarter that set up the Jets’ game-ending touchdown.
McDaniel said he’s confident the rookie can improve after getting a starter workload in practice all week. At the very least, he said Thompson should be more comfortable having just one more quarterback on the touchline, unlike his debut last week.
“It’s huge because in a quarterback playing experience, you’re being coached, there’s a lot of stuff happening and you’re picking up information from one, two, three voices,” McDaniel said. “But then if you have a colleague who’s been through it and seen that translation – it could be a word, it could be a pat on the back. All that teammate support is a very big deal for a player like that…to have that support from his brother on the touchline this week because last week it was a lonely sideline.
“All Skylar needed to talk to was [Dolphins quarterbacks coach Darrell] Me and Bevel, and we’re great guys, but not great at conversation.”