A potentially important part of the Dolphins’ future wasn’t supposed to see the field this season.
But Skylar Thompson — a revelation during training camp and preseason — has now been thrust into the Dolphins’ No. 2 quarterback job, behind Teddy Bridgewater — until Tua Tagovailoa clears concussion protocol.
The Dolphins plan to be very cautious with Tagovailoa, and when he returns to game action will depend on his recovery and passing the five phases required in the league’s concussion protocol system. For those reasons, it is undetermined how many weeks he could miss.
MRI and CT scans came back clean, and he’s doing well, according to sources.
ESPN reported Sunday that images of Tagovailoa’s brain are being sent to three independent doctors to obtain as many opinions as possible about his condition. As of Saturday, there was nothing new or alarming that surfaced in the medical examination of Tagovailoa’s head and neck.
In the meantime, Thompson will be the team’s No. 2 quarterback.
“Teddy would start” against the Jets if Tagovailoa isn’t cleared, coach Mike McDaniel said Friday. “Guys have a lot of confidence in him and guys have confidence in our whole quarterback room, really. It’s one of the strengths of our football team. Tua, Teddy and Skylar have performed in a great working group and our guys believe in all three of them.
“Skylar has been what you guys know Skylar to be. He’s just working constantly and when he’s on the field, he’ll make some plays. He’s in a great spot, too. I feel very fortunate to have those two guys.”
Thompson led the NFL in preseason passer rating and was at peace using this season as a developmental year. But if Bridgewater is injured before Tagovailoa returns, he would be trust into game action.
Thompson, alone at his locker stall recently, said his strong work in August further convinced him that he’s good enough to be an NFL quarterback.
“It definitely gave me confidence,” he said. “I had confidence coming into it. But when you actually reap the rewards of the labor I put in, to do well, and to see it come to life, gave me confidence, that I belong in this league.
“Whatever that may look like, I do belong here. I believed that since I was a little kid. There’s never been a doubt in my mind I could do this.”
Thompson, 24, fully embraces his role on this team, as an insurance QB behind Tagovailoa and Bridgewater. But he’s also clear about the long-term goal:
“Any quarterback in this league would tell you their goal is to be a starter,” he said. “Obviously, that’s my goal. If not, I don’t know what they’re doing this for. That’s not how I’m wired. I’m not going to shortchange myself and where I want to get to someday.
“Right now, I still have room to improve. But I understand what my role is right now. Tua is our starter, our captain. My job is to freaking support him and help him any way I can.”
This 2023 season, from a personal standpoint, is about “understanding my role and find ways to improve and develop and not let this time get wasted. For me to be in position to sit back and learn and see things from perspective where I’m not the starter is going to be very beneficial for me in helping me understand what is game routine look like, what preparation looks like.
“Having guys like Teddy and Tua to look up to and guys that have done it before is very beneficial for me.”
Though this is nothing that would be appropriate for Thompson to discuss, the Dolphins could save $5 million to $10 million in salary and cap space on a veteran backup quarterback in 2023 if the Dolphins believe Thompson can handle that job. He’s due to make $870,000 next season, with an $890,000 cap hit.
He said nobody on the coaching staff or front office informed him when he made the team. He knew only when the 53-man roster was set and he hadn’t been summoned to a meeting.
“I don’t necessarily need that,” he said of any congratulations from the front office. “I made the team and understand my role. I’ve displayed the type of person and leader I am. I am a team guy. I feel I’ve shown that with my actions from the moment I’ve gotten here.”
According to the league’s website, the NFL and union agreed that a player who show gross motor instability will not be permitted to return to a game, closing a loophole that allowed Tagovailoa to return against the Bills after banging his head on the turf.
Tagovailoa was permitted to return to the Bills game because doctors ruled he did not have a head injury.
The new agreement needs formal approval from the NFLPA’s health and safety committee and could take effect in time for next weekend’s games, according to NFL Network.
Meanwhile, the league and union’s joint investigation into the handling of Tagovailoa’s health during the Bills game is on-going.
The Dolphins’ team doctor (John Uribe) and the independent neurologist (whose identity have not been revealed) have both been interviewed. The union on Saturday dismissed that neurologist; NFL.com, citing sources, attributed his dismissal to “his failure to understand his role and hostility during the investigation process.”
Uribe and the independent neurologist both ruled that Tagovailoa did not sustain a head injury against Buffalo, a medical diagnosis that has been questioned by former players and others who did not examine Tagovailoa that day. The doctors who examined Tagovailoa that day concluded he wobbled because of a back injury, not a brain injury.
The 2020 labor agreement says: “The Sideline [independent neurologist] may present his/her own questions or conduct additional testing and shall assist in the diagnosis and treatment of concussions. Regardless, the responsibility for the diagnosis of concussion and the decision to return a player to a game remains exclusively within the professional judgment of the Head Team Physician or the team physician” handling the matter.
The league and union investigation could take another week or two, and the results will be released upon its conclusion.
As part of the investigation, Tagovailoa is scheduled to be interviewed early this week, according to ESPN.
BILLS FANS HELP
Bills fans led efforts to donate to Tagovailoa’s foundation after Thursday’s concussion.
Social media accounts with the hashtag BillsMafia has encouraged contributions to the Tua Foundation, which received more than 1000 donations within a 24-hour person.
“We’re just grateful for all the support,” Tua Foundation executive director Burt Trembly told the Buffalo News.
The Tua Foundation is a non-profit “dedicated to the support of youth initiatives, health and wellness, and other charitable causes.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Tyreek Hill has played in only four games for the Dolphins, but he’s already the first player in franchise history to have multiple 10-reception, 150-yard games, per ESPN.
His 31 catches and 477 yards are the most he has ever had after four games, in six NFL seasons.
▪ Pro Football Focus’ top five Dolphins on offense on Thursday against Cincinnati: Hill, Tagovailoa, Trent Sherfield, Connor Williams and Terron Armstead.
PFF’s top five defensive players on Thursday were Christian Wilkins, Jaelan Phillips, Jerome Baker, Nik Needham and John Jenkins.