Sixteen days ago, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered at least his second concussion of the year. He has yet to be cleared to play.
Five days from a playoff game in Buffalo, it remains to be seen whether he will be.
Frankly, it’s hard to see it happening. Tagovailoa has become the unwitting face and name most associated with head trauma in pro football. During the 2022 season, he has had two, maybe three, head injuries that have occurred when his head struck the turf. Every time he plays, there’s a real chance it will happen again.
Tua technically will be able to play after he’s cleared under the five-step return to play protocol. At this point, what responsible doctor will sign off on letting Tua play again? And what kind of messages could they be getting from a broader football power structure that is still reeling from the horrifying on-field cardiac arrest suffered by Bills safety Damar Hamlin?
At this point, the last thing the NFL needs is another serious on-field injury. Tua provided exactly that, in Week Four against the Bengals.
Ultimately, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross makes the call on whether Tua does or doesn’t play. Some think he should have kept Tua from playing on that fateful night in Cincinnati, four days after Tua struck his head on the ground and clearly wobbled before inexplicably being cleared to return to a game against the Bills.
Even if the doctors clear Tua to play against Buffalo, Ross has to sign off on it. It’s hard to imagine Ross letting it happen.
It’s also hard to imagine Ross not thinking once again about whether there’s a better short- and long-term answer at quarterback than Tua, someone who can and will avoid suffering head injuries.
Is that fair? Is that right? It’s frankly no different from being not strong enough or not fast enough or not skilled enough or too old or two expensive or too whatever to play in the NFL. Tua is too susceptible to concussions, and that could be the thing that causes his NFL opportunities to evaporate well before his skills would have otherwise diminished.