NFL: Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa is one step closer to returning to the field. The Dolphins quarterback cleared concussion protocol, NFL Media reported on Wednesday. 

Tagovailoa had previously elected to skip the Pro Bowl activities this week as he had yet to clear protocol and continued to focus on his recovery. While you won't see him taking part in the Pro Bowl weekend, this latest report does note that the Dolphins are confident that Tagovailoa will be fully ready to return to football activities when the time comes later this year. Tagovailoa missed the Dolphins' last three games after reporting concussion-like symptoms in Week 16, which sent him back into protocol. 

This latest report from NFL Media does echo what GM Chris Grier recently told reporting, signaling the organization's confidence that he will be back at full capacity in 2023. Grier added that doctors he has spoken to have told him that they do not think Tagovailoa's prior injuries will leave him more susceptible to more head injuries as he continues his career. 

Along with his solid play when healthy, head injuries largely defined Tagovailoa's 2022 season. He missed two games after sustaining a concussion during Miami's Week 4 loss to the Bengals. Tagovailoa returned to the field and helped the Dolphins win their next five games to move to 8-3 on the season. His second concussion, which was sustained against the Packers on Christmas Day, ultimately ended his season. 

Tagovailoa's injuries prompted the NFL and the NFLPA to conduct multiple reviews regarding the league's handling of head injuries. The league has since altered its concussion protocol as a byproduct of those reviews. 

When healthy, Tagovailoa looked like the player the Dolphins hoped he would be when they selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The former Alabama standout completed nearly 65% of his passes this season with more than three times as many touchdown passes (25) as interceptions (8). 

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Despite Tagovailoa's absence, Miami was able to eek past the Jets in its regular season finale to clinch the AFC's seventh and final playoff spot. Skylar Thompson, who started Miami's last three games of the season including the playoffs, nearly lead Miami to an upset win over Buffalo on Super Wild Card Weekend. 

While his main concern is on his quarterback's longterm health, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel is optimistic while projecting Tagovailoa's future trajectory. 

"He's a great player with only improvement in front of him," McDaniel recently said of his quarterback. "We're talking about a 24-year-old quarterback that I think when I signed up for this job I spent six months trying to convince people that he's good."