Tua Tagovailoa happy to be back after clearing protocols

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said he’s happy to be back after a long process to clear concussion protocols.

“It’s been a process,” he said Wednesday in his first comments to reporters since his injury. “That’s for sure. Having to deal with interviews with the NFL, NFLPA, and then having to go to outside doctors with a second opinion. A lot of things have been stressful. But it’s all…

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said he’s happy to be back after a long process to clear concussion protocols.

“It’s been a process,” he said Wednesday in his first comments to reporters since his injury. “That’s for sure. Having to deal with interviews with the NFL, NFLPA, and then having to go to outside doctors with a second opinion. A lot of things have been stressful. But everything is done for the safety of players.

Tagovailoa last played in a Sept. 29 loss at Cincinnati, when his head hit the turf and he suffered a concussion. He missed the next two games and the Dolphins fell to 3-3 after winning their first three.

Now that he’s approved concussion protocols, Tagovailoa is set to start against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said he wants Tagovailoa to be in his “normal mood” and as “locked in” as he always is.

“That’s what I learned to love about this guy,” McDaniel said. “That’s why he was able to have success in a completely new language and system. And that would be my expectation for this week because it’s not the Tua Dolphins.

Tagovailoa echoed a similar sentiment.

“I just have to be myself,” he said. “I am not the savior of this team. I just can’t and we start winning games. It’s a team deal.

In that Thursday night game against Cincinnati, Tagovailoa took a hard hit from Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou and was thrown into the turf.

Tagovailoa’s hands immediately froze with his fingers flexed awkwardly in front of his face mask for several seconds. It was stretched off the pitch and taken to hospital.

Tagovailoa said he remembers everything from that night until he was tackled. He doesn’t remember being stretched off the pitch, but has flashes of being in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

“I wouldn’t say it was scary for me at the time,” Tagovailoa said. “There was a time when I was unconscious so I couldn’t really tell what was going on.”

It was four days after Tagovailoa hit the back of his head on the turf from a hit by Bills linebacker Matt Milano. He faltered as he tried to get back to his feet and was cleared to return early in the third quarter. The team later said he had a back injury.

Both incidents caused significant changes to concussion protocols by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. They added that an abnormality of balance and/or stability would be a symptom prohibiting a player from resuming a game.

Tagovailoa returned to the field as a participant in limited practice last Wednesday, and after completing the return-to-play stages required by the NFL, he was medically cleared on Saturday.

Tagovailoa had the best start of his career before the injury. He had thrown for 1,035 yards and eight touchdowns, including 469 yards and six touchdowns in Miami’s Week 2 rally against Baltimore.

Serious injuries are also nothing new for the third-year quarterback.

In Alabama, he underwent surgery for a high ankle sprain in October 2019, which caused him to miss a game.

A month later, Tagovailoa dislocated his right hip against Mississippi State, which prematurely ended his college career.

During his professional career, Tagovailoa had to deal with broken ribs, a thumb injury and a broken middle finger on his throwing hand.

He said he’s not usually the type of player to throw the ball away or give up plays.

“Learning from this,” Tagovailoa said. “Learning if there isn’t, it’s OK to throw it away. The longevity of my ability to be the quarterback for this team and not try to make something out of thin air.

NOTES: McDaniel said WR Jaylen Waddle (shoulder) probably won’t be a big part of Wednesday’s practices, but he’s “optimistic” about Waddle’s availability for Sunday. … QB Skylar Thompson’s tests on his throwing hand were “more positive than negative,” McDaniel said. He added that Thompson, who left Sunday’s game against the Vikings with a bloody right thumb, “will get back into action as soon as possible.” … CBs Keion Crossen (knee) and Kader Kohou (oblique) “have a chance” to play on Sunday, McDaniel said.

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