Sixteen days ago, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered at least his second concussion of the year. He has not yet been cleared to play.
Five days before a playoff game in Buffalo, it remains to be seen whether it will be.
Frankly, it’s hard to see that happening. Tagovailoa has become the unwitting face and name most associated with traumatic brain injury in professional football. In the 2022 season, he had two, possibly three, head injuries that occurred when his head hit the turf. Every time he plays, there’s a good chance it will happen again.
Tua will technically be able to play after being cleared under the five-step return to play protocol. At this point, which responsible doctor will sign to let Tua play again? And what kind of messages might they get from a wider football power structure that is still reeling from the horrific on-field cardiac arrest suffered by Bills safety Damar Hamlin?
At this point, the last thing the NFL needs is another serious injury on the field. Tua provided just that, in Week 4 against the Bengals.
Ultimately, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross decides whether Tua plays or not. Some believe he should have stopped Tua from playing that fateful night in Cincinnati, four days after Tua hit his head on the ground and clearly faltered before being inexplicably allowed to return to a game against the Bills.
Even if the doctors clear Tua to play against Buffalo, Ross has to approve it. It’s hard to imagine Ross letting it go.
It’s also hard to imagine Ross not once again wondering if there’s a better short and long-term answer to quarterback than Tua, someone who can and will avoid sustaining head injuries. .
Is it right? Is it correct? It’s frankly no different from being not strong enough or not fast enough or not skilled enough or too old or too expensive or too whatever to play in the NFL. Tua is too susceptible to concussions, and that could be the cause of his NFL opportunities evaporating long before his skills have otherwise diminished.