FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Tua Tagovailoa is moving to his new hometown.
Tagovailoa, the Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback, is expected to officially move from Alabama to South Florida on Saturday as the NFL has recently eased its restrictions for players to be able to visit and workout at team facilities.
Coach Brian Flores, general manager Chris Grier and team doctors will finally get their hands on Tagovailoa, the fifth overall pick in April’s NFL draft, who has continued to make significant progress in his hip injury recovery.
“He’s doing miraculously well,” said Kevin Wilk, a renown physical therapist in the sports world who has been working with Tagovailoa at the Champion Sports Medicine facility in Birmingham, Ala.
“The miraculous part is that he healed so well. The second part is, he’s been so well at getting his strength back, which usually takes a long time after something like this.”
Tagovailoa has spent about 3 1/2 hours each workout with a special emphasis placed on three areas of his body:
— His hip, which is recovering from a posterior wall fracture and dislocation suffered in November.
— His ankles, which both underwent tight-rope procedures while in college at Alabama to aid the healing process from high-ankle sprains.
— And his left shoulder with a throwing program to maintain and strengthen his throwing arm.
Over the course of a workout, Tagovailoa would run, lift weights, do agility-type drills, stretch, get his soft tissues worked, ride a stationary bike and do some throwing with friends running routes.
He also did football-type exercises Miami wants him doing with Wilk constantly communicating with Dolphins head athletic trainer Kyle Johnston to share progress.
After his work outs, Tagovailoa would stay at the facility for Zoom meetings for the Dolphins’ virtual offseason program.
“You can barely talk to him when he’s at the clinic. He’s either doing exercises or his face is buried in the iPad, learning the system,” Wilk said with a laugh.
“He’s laser focused. One of the most focused I’ve ever seen anybody, to be honest.”
Wilk, who has more than 30 years of experience working with athletes like Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Drew Brees and many others, said his initial concerns with Tagovailoa’s hip was the healing process.
Wilk said Tagovailoa’s hip fracture healed well after the surgery, and there was no wear and tear on other areas of concern like the femoral head (the ball-shaped part of the thigh bone inserted into the hip) or the acetabulum (the hip socket) or the pelvis itself.
Tagovailoa’s blood supply in the hip area was also not compromised, an issue that Jackson dealt with for his hip injury, leading to bone deterioration, ultimately threatening his football career.
“He’s a little bit ahead as far as where we would like him,” Wilk added. “We’re constantly trying to slow him down just a little bit because an athlete like that is just chopping at the bit just begging to get back out there. He wants to do more and more so we have to hold him back. And really, that was from the beginning. He always wanted to do more.”
While Tagovailoa’s recovery process has been ideal, Tagovailoa still has some significant work ahead before he can make his Dolphins debut.
This process begins when Tagovailoa meets with Dolphins team doctors at the team facility after his move.
Even though Tagovailoa is doing quarterback drops and throwing passes to people running routes for him, he has yet to participate in a true NFL practice or endure the day-to-day grind of a minicamp or training camp.
How Tagovailoa’s body responses to such rigors of live action or simulated live play will be instrumental with regards to when he makes his debut.
“He’s in shape now, but he’s not in South Florida football shape,” Wilk said. “Just that aspect of it, from a cardio standpoint and a recovery standpoint, you don’t want to put him out there when he’s fatigued to not just jeopardize his hip, but his arm or something like that. So, he’s got to get his reps and it’s really how he responds on a week-to-week basis.”
To project whether Tagovailoa could be ready to play as early as Week 1 of the NFL season, at this point in his recovery process would be wildly optimistic.
But Tagovailoa is surely on his way, ready to compete with both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen for playing time during his rookie season with the Dolphins.
“I don’t want to make it sound like he’s far away, but it is a lot of steps from now to then for opening day or Game 1. But so far, so good,” Wilk said.
“Well, so far, so tremendous, really. I couldn’t really ask for him to be in a better place. He’s really, really done well.”