MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. >> The Miami Dolphins are another day closer to the Thursday night game at the Cincinnati Bengals with uncertainty still surrounding whether quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will play.
Coach Mike McDaniel, as of this afternoon, is deeming Tagovailoa, who left and re-entered Sunday’s thrilling win over the Bills after a late hit from Buffalo linebacker Matt Milano, questionable for Thursday.
The Dolphins held a walkthrough today at team facilities, and with the Saint Louis alum listed as having back and ankle injuries on the team’s injury report, McDaniel offered his best estimation of Tagovailoa’s status two days before facing the defending AFC-champion Bengals.
“If this were an actual, real practice on a normal week, Tua would be limited and he would be questionable for the game,” said McDaniel, who added the two had a phone conversation late Monday night that encouraged him. “Just him talking to me, I can tell in his voice, he is literally going to do everything he can and in his power.
“I’ll know that, if he doesn’t play, it literally was not possible. Happy with the way he has so far progressed. Feel very optimistic because of how he’s going about it.”
On Tagovailoa’s end, he sounded even more optimistic today.
“That’s the plan,” he responded, to a question asking if he expects to play. “Doing everything I can to get back out there, so hopefully I can get out there and play.
“I’ve been up here getting treatment, doing everything I can to get as close to 100 percent as possible. That means, after all of this [the walkthrough, meetings and media sessions], staying as long as I have to.”
McDaniel said he hopes to make a decision on Wednesday so the team can travel to Cincinnati knowing who will be the starting signal-caller but cautioned it could come down to game day.
Should Tagovailoa be unable to play, backup Teddy Bridgewater will get the start against Joe Burrow and the Bengals and rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson would back him up.
With Bridgewater, McDaniel said the offensive game plan wouldn’t get altered.
“Nothing would change that much in terms of how to call the game,” he said. “We have a bunch of faith in him.”
Said Tagovailoa: “I have a lot of confidence in Teddy that if he had to step up right now, he’d go out there and play extremely well. Teddy’s a vet in the league. He’s played on multiple teams, and he’s found success on the teams that he’s played on.”
Tagovailoa was initially said to have suffered a head injury in Sunday’s win over the Bills when he exited at the first half’s two-minute warning after getting pushed by Milano, causing Tagovailoa to fall back and hit the back of his head on the turf. Tagovailoa appeared woozy and even stumbled upon getting up before getting checked on the field and being escorted by trainers into the locker room.
He cleared concussion protocol and returned for the second half, finishing 13 of 18 for 186 yards and a touchdown pass. Postgame, both Tagovailoa and McDaniel said it was actually a back injury Tagovailoa was dealing with as the play that drew a roughing-the-passer penalty exacerbated earlier discomfort Tagovailoa experienced in his lower back from a quarterback sneak.
The ankle issue, in addition to the back, arose on Monday, but Tagovailoa said the back is the greater concern.
“The ankle was just after the game soreness when my legs got caught up under whoever it was on the quarterback sneak,” Tagovailoa said.
He added the originally announced head issue is not part of the equation. The NFL Players Association, on Sunday, initiated an investigation into the handling of Tagovailoa’s in-game concussion check that cleared him to return.
McDaniel noted the functionality for Tagovailoa will be an issue with the ailing back, along with simply dealing with the pain.
“Your body has a reaction process that you can, all of a sudden, lose all your power in your throws, you can’t redirect,” McDaniel said, “and once you can’t protect yourself on an NFL football field, we have to protect you.
“There will be some pain, regardless. It’s whether or not that pain hurts him from being able to put his production on the field and escape impending danger, which is part of the job of an NFL quarterback.”
Added Tagovailoa of what aspects of quarterback play the back affects: “Everything. Having to twist to hand the ball off, having to toss the ball, having to throw the ball. Every aspect of it.”
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