Now that Tua Tagovailoa is a member of the Miami Dolphins, two questions about the new quarterback largely remain.
What number is he going to wear? The Dolphins have yet to announce that, but Tagovailoa has already acknowledged he will wear another number with respect to Dan Marino’s retired No. 13 jersey, which was the same number he wore at Alabama.
Perhaps, more importantly: When will Tagovailoa make his debut for the Dolphins?
Well, there are some layers to this topic.
The Dolphins will begin a virtual offseason program this week where players will participate in classroom instruction and workouts, among other exercises, through videoconferencing technology as NFL facilities remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Eventually, the NFL will begin exploring its options to resume operations with hopes of playing the 2020 season.
Then, the much-anticipated decisions will follow on how much Tagovailoa will participate in such activities like minicamp and training camp — and participating in actual games.
“Look, we haven’t even seen him. Obviously with the pandemic and all that’s going on, our doctors haven’t seen him,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said of the team’s in-person interaction with Tagovailoa since first meeting at the scouting combine in February.
“We have a long way to go before we can say who’s doing what … I think it’s way too early to speculate on this year and how this is going to go. You guys know we like to take a one-day-at-a-time approach anyway. That’s going to be the approach I’m going to have him take as well.”
Drafting Tagovailoa came with some inherent risk for the Dolphins, who took into consideration his extensive injury history before selecting him with the No. 5 pick in last week’s draft.
During the draft process, Tagovailoa, his agent and his doctors reassured NFL teams that he would be healthy to play this season.
Tagovailoa began participating in football workouts in early March and conducted a pro day workout for teams in early April as he continued to recover from his hip injury that ended his 2019 season at Alabama.
The Dolphins are in a favorable position to gradually bring along Tagovailoa, with 15-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and third-year quarterback Josh Rosen also on the roster.
So essentially, there is no rush for Tagovailoa to play in any games — if at all — during his rookie season.
But Tagovailoa believes he could be on the field sooner rather than later.
“I think what makes me confident in the aspect of me being able to play would be what the doctors have told me. As far as rehab, as far as the medical rechecks, I’ve checked off all the boxes, so that’s what I’ve been really standing on and that’s kind of what I’ve been going with,” Tagovailoa said after being drafted last week.
“That’s why I’ve been really encouraged to say that I’m able to play if need be; but I think the biggest thing for me right now is just being able to take it in, soak it in, enjoy it with my family and get to work.”
Along with taking a patient approach with their new quarterback, the Dolphins also intend to take a similar approach with their other new players.
With 11 draft picks, 10 free-agent signings and a new veteran running back in Matt Brieda, it’s natural to heighten expectations for the 2020 Dolphins, following their 5-11 campaign in Flores’ first season.
Flores and general manager Chris Grier know the stakes will be higher, particularly in a wide-open AFC East with Tom Brady no longer with the New England Patriots.
While the Dolphins have made significant progress this offseason, their work has only just begun.
“It’s building a process of building this team to get better every day,” Grier said. Expectations, people will have that and good or bad, and for us it’s just staying the course and doing a lot of the things that the coaching staff really believes and implements with the team.”
“Games aren’t won in March and April,” Flores added. “I think there’s a lot of work that has to be done from now until the start of the season, whether it’s virtual meetings to hopefully getting back together, getting on the field and getting 90 guys on the same page, 11 guys on the same page …
“A lot of hard work has to be done first to become a good team. It’s not easy, so I would say as far as expectations, let’s manage them and there’s a lot of work we have to do, and obviously we’re going to push the team to do that but the work has to be done by the players and coaches, the personnel staff. It’s going to be a collective team effort.”
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