Tagovailoa prepares this week as the starter for the Dolphins

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) – Tua Tagovailoa is back, and his return will be a welcome sight for a Dolphins team that hasn’t won a game since suffering a concussion on Sept. 29.

Tagovailoa will go through practice this week as the Dolphins’ starter, and assuming all goes well, is expected to start Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“He’s the captain for a reason,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “I think he’s a very, very good player in that position. Very good players, they definitely give people a boost, not because of what other people are not, but because of who he is.”

Tagovailoa returned to practice on a limited basis last week. He’s been in concussion protocols since getting hurt and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4.

Tagovailoa was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but was listed as a full participant on Friday. He, along with backup Teddy Bridgewater, was medically cleared to return Saturday after completing all NFL-required return-to-play steps.

After watching Tagovailoa throw the ball in practice, McDaniel said he doesn’t expect him to have much rust from a mechanics standpoint.

“He was really the same guy. Luckily, he didn’t start throwing right-handed,” McDaniel joked about Tagovailoa, who is left-handed.

McDaniel added that he spoke with Tagovailo about admitting he would protect himself on the field, which he acknowledged comes naturally for the third-year quarterback because of his competitive nature.

“He wants to break every tackle, and he doesn’t like when plays don’t work,” McDaniel said. “Well, sometimes it won’t.”

He added: “Guys who have set an example of how to play the position, they find ways to be available, and that concession is part of that.”

The Dolphins have lost three straight games, including Sunday’s 24-16 home loss to the Vikings.

Rookie Skylar Thompson started that game after Bridgewater was affected by the NFL’s modified concussion protocols against the Jets in Week 5. He took a hit on the first offensive play and was placed in the protocols despite showing no concussion symptoms.

Bridgewater was active Sunday and replaced Thompson in the first half after the third-stringer left with a bloodied right thumb. McDaniel said Thompson’s injury will be reevaluated Wednesday.

Tagovailoa was also there on the Dolphins side, but was not active.

NOTES: McDaniel said cornerback Nick Needham, who was sidelined Sunday with a torn Achilles tendon, will go on injured reserve. … Miami will update the status of defensive back Keion Crossen’s knee injury later this week. … Cornerback Byron Jones likely won’t practice this week. He remains on the physically unable to perform list following surgery in March on his lower left leg. … McDaniel said it was a “step in the right direction” to keep left tackle Terron Armstead out of Sunday’s game as he nursed a lingering toe injury. … Right tackle Austin Jackson, who was placed on short-term IR last month with a right ankle injury, hasn’t had any setbacks, but McDaniel wants to be careful about bringing him back too soon.


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