MIAMI GARDENS >> Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, in his first organized press conference since his 2022 season was cut short due to a second stint in concussion protocol, admitted today that he gave thought to retirement at the end of the past season.
Tagovailoa, ultimately, opted against it, and he is set to return to the Dolphins for a fourth NFL season in 2023, plus at least a fifth after Miami picked up the 2020 first-round pick’s fifth-year option on his rookie contract.
“I considered it for a time, having sat down with my family, having sat down with my wife and having those conversations,” Tagovailoa, a Saint Louis alum, said of retirement. “But, really, it would be hard for me to walk away from this game with how old I am, with my son. I always dreamed of playing as long as I could to where my son knew exactly what he was watching his dad do.
“It’s my health. It’s my body. And I feel like this is what’s best for me and my family. I love the game of football. If I didn’t, I would’ve quit a long time ago.”
Tagovailoa’s last concussion came on Dec. 25 when his head hit the ground on what appeared to be a routine takedown in the Dolphins’ Christmas Day loss to the Green Bay Packers. The concussion was not recognized until the following day at team facilities, and Tagovailoa was placed in the league’s concussion protocol for 37 days before being cleared.
The quarterback missed the final two regular-season games and then Miami’s wild-card round playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 15. Tagovailoa didn’t appear to come close to being cleared in time for the postseason game, considering his ultimate clearance came on Feb. 1.
“I am not sure,” the 25-year-old Tagovailoa said. “I was going through my process with [trainer Kyle Johnston] and just trying to do everything I could to get better. But at any point, whenever the team, [coach] Mike [McDaniel] or [general manager Chris] Grier would’ve approached me and asked me if I were ready, there’s no question, no doubt in my mind that I would’ve stepped up to the plate and answered the call.”
Tagovailoa said it was hard not being able to finish out last season, but added, “This is a new year for us, this is a new team that we have. We’re really excited.”
The latter concussion followed the one he suffered in a Sept. 29 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals. In that Thursday night game, Tagovailoa laid motionless on the field after he was slammed to the turf by the Bengals’ Josh Tupou. He was carted off and admitted to a local hospital that night and missed the following two games. Four days before that instance, he wobbled after being pushed to the ground in a win over the Bills but was cleared to return to game action.
Tagovailoa said he was told by neurologists that he is not at greater risk for future concussions eight months removed from the 2022 occurrences when next season begins, nor is he at greater risk for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. He explained that his understanding is that CTE comes more often from constant, repeated blows to the head that are more common for linebackers and linemen.
Tagovailoa, last week, also spoke briefly to the media at his charity luau event and said offseason workouts have been going well as he looks to strengthen his body while also taking jiu-jitsu lessons to learn how to fall in a manner that protects his head.
He said he and his jiu-jitsu coach watched the film of his hits that resulted in blows to the head and assessed manners in which they could’ve been prevented.
“It wasn’t tough to watch,” Tagovailoa said. “I want to get better at everything that I can do to help the team win games, and I know the biggest thing is my health.
“Strength work has been really big throughout this offseason for me with getting my legs under me, building my upper body, building around my neck, my core.”
The quarterback also revealed some of his early learnings in jiu-jitsu.
“Learned how to fall,” Tagovailoa said. “Learned some grappling techniques, some other things too that I don’t think I should disclose. But, for the most part, learn how to fall. You think it’s easy. Just don’t fall and hit your head, but there’s a lot more to it.”
Among the techniques, he’s working on tucking his chin and getting his body into a proper posture to lessen impact on the head. He wants it to become second nature when he’s getting tackled in games.
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