It was leaning in this direction as the short week progressed for the Miami Dolphins. Now, it is reportedly indeed happening.
Tagovailoa, officially listed as questionable for Miami entering Thursday for the night game in Cincinnati, is ready to go and expected to play against the Bengals, along with wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and left tackle Terron Armstead, according to NFL Network.
Tagovailoa was recovering from back and ankle injuries in the three days between Sunday’s 21-19 win over the Buffalo Bills and Thursday as Dolphins players rested on Monday and held walkthroughs on Tuesday in Miami and Wednesday in Cincinnati.
A head injury was originally thought to be the issue for Tagovailoa after he was knocked back on a late hit by Bills linebacker Matt Milano in the second quarter of Sunday’s game. Banging the back of his head on the turf in a whiplash effect, Tagovailoa stumbled after getting up.
He was escorted to the locker room after getting checked on the field, and Tagovailoa returned for the second half after clearing concussion protocol. Finishing 13 of 18 for 186 yards and a touchdown in the win, both Tagovailoa and coach Mike McDaniel said it was not a head injury, as the team announced during the game, but actually a back injury that originated on an earlier quarterback sneak and was exacerbated by Milano’s push that landed Tagovailoa on his back. The ankle aspect of Tagovailoa’s injury concern was learned on Monday, but Tagovailoa said Tuesday the back remained the greater issue.
He said what he was feeling in his back was affecting every twist and turn he needs to make to function as a quarterback, whether it’s handoffs, pitches or forward passes.
Nonetheless, Tagovailoa responded, “that’s the plan,” when asked on Tuesday if he expects to play. McDaniel expressed similar optimism from conversations he had with the quarterback.
Tagovailoa’s availability means he will get to face Bengals signal-caller Joe Burrow. The two third-year quarterbacks face off for the first time in the NFL and first since their epic college showdown between Alabama and LSU in 2019. Burrow was out injured when the Bengals and Dolphins met in their rookie seasons.
Armstead is set to start again while nursing a toe injury in the opener against the New England Patriots. Waddle popped up on the injury report on the short week, dealing with a groin injury.
Paramount among Miami’s four other players entering the prime-time game with questionable designations is cornerback Xavien Howard‘s status due to groin and glute ailments. The Dolphins also have wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. (ribs/toe), safety Brandon Jones (chest) and defensive tackle Raekwon Davis (knee) as questionable on Thursday.