In his first news conference since sustaining a concussion Dec. 25, Tagovailoa said he briefly mulled walking away from football in a conversation with his wife but ultimately chose not to.
“I considered it for a time, having sat down with my family, having sat down with my wife and having those kind of conversations,” Tagovailoa said. “But it would be really hard for me to walk away from this game with how old I am, with my son.
“I always dreamed of playing as long as I could to where my son knew exactly what he was watching, that he’s watching his dad. It’s my health, it’s my body, and I feel like this is what’s best for me and my family.”
Tagovailoa, 25, was placed into the concussion protocol twice last season, missing five games, including the Dolphins’ playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills.
He hit the back of his head on the ground in each instance; in an effort to prevent that scenario from happening again, Tagovailoa has trained with a jiu-jitsu coach this offseason. He’s still a white belt as of April but said the experience has taught him how to distribute his weight and energy while falling.
“We used crash pads to land on first, with trying to fall. … Tucking your chin, that was one of the deals, but it went a lot more into the technique of how to disperse your energy when you fall,” he said. “Kind of like the posture you want to be in, [and] if you’re not presented that posture, what are other things that you can do to help you disperse the energy when you fall. So, it’s a lot of those things. It’s actually a lot cooler than you think when you hear of learning how to fall.”
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier previously said that the team has consulted with specialists and neurologists about Tagovailoa’s long-term health and that the experts don’t believe he’s at any greater risk of sustaining a concussion after his injuries last season. Tagovailoa echoed that confidence after personally speaking with specialists about the same matter.
“They told me that CTE wasn’t going to be a problem,” he said. “It’s only when you’re constantly hitting your head against something. So, I think that tailors more toward linebackers and linemen — guys that are constantly going at it.
“That also played into the factor of my decision-making and wanting to come back and play.”
The Dolphins have publicly committed to Tagovailoa over the past several months and exercised his fifth-year option in March — well ahead of the May 2 deadline.
This season will mark the first time in Tagovailoa’s career that he has played under the same offensive system in consecutive years, and there’s reason for optimism surrounding the fourth-year quarterback after he led the NFL in passer rating in 2022.