The Miami Dolphins haven't ruled Tua Tagovailoa out for Sunday. But they're planning to play without him.
Head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters on Monday that the Dolphins were preparing for their Week 18 matchup against the New York Jets without Tagovailoa in the game plan. Barring a status change, either Teddy Bridgewater or Skylar Thompson will start at quarterback with a playoff berth at stake.
"For me I'm preparing for both Skylar and Teddy," McDaniel said. "I think it's too soon to know anything about Teddy.
"With Tua, I haven't even thought about playing status"
Tagovailoa entered concussion protocol last Monday after sustaining the injury in Week 16 against the Green Bay Packers. The head injury was his third of the season. His previous concussion left him hospitalized following a blow to the head in Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
His backup Bridgewater started and injured the pinkie on his throwing hand in Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots. McDaniel told reporters on Monday that Bridgewater dislocated the pinkie but did not break it. They'll know more about his status as swelling subsides later this week.
If Bridgewater can't go, the Dolphins will rely on Thompson, a seventh-round rookie who's made five appearances including one start this season. The Dolphins can clinch a playoff berth on Sunday with a win against the Jets and a Patriots loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Should Tua play if the Dolphins advance?
Tagovailoa's status has been the subject of intense scrutiny after repeated head injuries left him in the hospital. After his latest concussion, some former players have called for the Dolphins to shut him down for the season regardless of whether he clears protocol out of concern for his longterm health.
If the Dolphins were to win on Sunday and advance to the postseason, they'll face another decision at quarterback for a playoff game. McDaniel told reporters on Monday that "no timeline has been discussed" regarding Tagovailoa's return.
Tagovailoa broke out this season, his third in the NFL since the Dolphins selected him in the first round of the 2020 draft. He drew early MVP buzz as a Dolphins passing game featuring Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle proved to be one of the NFL's most explosive.
An 8-3 start had the Dolphins poised for their first playoff berth since 2016. But a five-game losing streak since has the Dolphins needing a win and help in the last week of the season to secure a playoff spot. Meanwhile Tagovailoa's health has overshadowed whatever happens on the field.