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Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa back in concussion protocol ahead of Miami’s pivotal final stretch – Boston Herald

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Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is back in concussion protocol, coach Mike McDaniel said Monday, following his team’s 26-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

McDaniel said it’s “a little early” to determine if Tagovailoa has been diagnosed with a concussion but that he has been showing symptoms, causing the team to examine him and place him under the league protocol.

“I just want him to get healthy and have peace of mind in that regard,” McDaniel said. “That’s first and foremost. And then, whatever those circumstances are after, you deal with after, but it’s about the human being and making sure he’s squared away.”

The third-year quarterback missed two games earlier in the season due to a concussion after making an early exit in the Dolphins’ Sept. 29 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He also showed symptoms four days earlier in Miami’s Sept. 25 win over the Buffalo Bills but returned in that game. In both instances, Tagovailoa took a hard hit to the back of the head against the ground upon getting tackled.

There was an instance late in the first half Sunday when Tagovailoa appeared to take a similar blow to the head, but McDaniel was unsure if that triggered Tagovailoa’s symptoms.

“This is something that just came across my plate a couple hours ago,” McDaniel said. “As far as the game was concerned, no one recognized anything with regard to any sort of hit. I can’t really tell you exactly when it was.”

McDaniel said backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will receive a majority of practice reps while Tagovailoa is in protocol. He was not ready to name a starter for the Dolphins’ upcoming Sunday game at the New England Patriots.

“That’s one of the reasons why you go and aggressively pursue a player like Teddy Bridgewater,” the Miami coach said of the veteran Miami native who has 64 NFL starts under his belt. “Teddy will prepare as though he’s starting, and we’ll see as the week goes.”

The concussion protocol is a five-step process to return to play, and it is possible for a player to return within a few days.

Before McDaniel announced that Tagovailoa was in the protocol, guard Robert Hunt said the quarterback was in good spirits Monday.

The development with Tagovailoa comes as Dolphins’ 2022 season has hit a new low at the worst possible time after four consecutive losses and the franchise’s first winless December since 1993.

A playoff spot, previously a foregone conclusion when the Dolphins (8-7) finished November 8-3 and tied atop the AFC East, now still remains in the balance over Miami’s final two regular-season games.

“We’ve been learning hard lessons for the last month of games, and at some point, if we want to make the next step, we’re going to have to put up or shut up,” McDaniel said following the latest loss, a defeat against the Packers at home.

The three previous losses were on the road against winning teams. The Dolphins were expected to rebound at home against a sub-.500 Green Bay team on the verge of elimination from playoff contention, especially after showing encouraging signs competing with the Super Bowl-favorite Bills in Buffalo’s frigid conditions the week before.

But then, leading 20-10 deep in the first half, they were hit with an “unexpected” second half, as McDaniel called it, with Tagovailoa unraveling for three fourth-quarter interceptions.

“It is tough, but also nothing comes easy in this game,” McDaniel said. “If you’re able to dig yourself out of it, it does benefit you in the next phase of the season.

“Bottom line is it is what it is. What type of people are we and are we able to really get through this together? Because there’s no one else outside of that team meeting room that’s going to come save us. We have to figure it out ourselves.”

Despite the apparent doom and gloom, Miami, still calm and collected in its locker room, knows it controls its own fate for a postseason berth.

The Dolphins could be holding on to the AFC’s final wild-card spot if the Los Angeles Chargers clinch a playoff berth on Monday night against the reeling Indianapolis Colts.

Here are the playoff scenarios for the Dolphins:

If they win both of their remaining games at the Patriots (7-8) and home against the New York Jets (7-8), they’re in.

They can also clinch before the finale against New York, if they win in Foxborough on Sunday and the Jets lose at the Seattle Seahawks.

If the Dolphins lose in Week 17, Miami then needs to win the finale against the Jets and have the Patriots lose their finale at Buffalo to get in, regardless of New York’s result in Seattle.

If the Dolphins win against the Patriots and the Jets win against the Seahawks, Miami’s finale against New York could become a winner-take-all scenario if the Chargers have already clinched by then. Should Miami lose to New York in this case, its only way in is with the Chargers either losing all three of their remaining games or losing to both their remaining AFC opponents (Colts, Broncos) while the Steelers win out to create a large tiebreaker at 9-8 — an unlikely scenario that could be erased from the equation Monday night.

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