And now, the process begins: Dolphins coach Brian Flores tempering expectations and prospective timelines of when the team’s prized draft pick will eventually make his NFL debut.
“I know there’s a lot of people wanting to talk about Tua. I understand it,” Flores said Wednesday.
“But at the same time, he’s a young player. This is his first NFL training camp. He’s got to take it one day at a time, and not think about what’s realistic for the season. I think we have to take a one-day-at-a-time approach, which has been my message to him and it’s not just him, it’s every player on this team.”
One positive for the Dolphins and Tagovailoa — who has recovered from a hip dislocation and posterior wall fracture — is the team’s No. 5 pick in April’s draft was not placed on the physically unable to perform list at the start of camp, clearing him for team activity.
So far, no Dolphins player has opted out of the season, Flores said as of Wednesday.
Only three players have been listed on the team’s COVID-19 list: long snapper Blake Ferguson, cornerback Cordrea Tankersley and defensive tackle Benito Jones. They either contracted COVID-19 or came into close contact with someone who has and began the quarantine process Monday.
Former Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard is the only starting player who will begin training camp sidelined, on the physically unable to perform list as he recovers from knee surgery last November.
Dolphins training camp will begin with 60-minute workouts in the weight room and on-field conditioning before players begin football workouts starting at 90 minutes and lasting up to 3 1/2 hours. The first full-contact, padded practice begins on Aug. 17.
Tagovailoa may not be cleared for full-contact practices just yet, but how his hip responds after strength and conditioning workouts will determine how much he will practice when the Dolphins move to strictly football work.
Then, Tagovailoa can begin his quest to win the Dolphins starting quarterback competition against Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen.
“Obviously, there is an acclimation period here for the next two weeks. There is strength and conditioning and some walk-throughs. So, there won’t be much strenuous activity. I shouldn’t say there won’t be strenuous activity, there will be from a strength and conditioning standpoint. But from a football practice, drills, that standpoint, there won’t be much,” Flores said.
“But yeah, he’s through the physical. And when we do get to practice, you’ll see him out there.”
On the quarterback competition, Flores did not divulge where Fitzpatrick, Rosen or Tagovailoa would begin training camp on the depth chart.
Fitzpatrick, Miami’s starter last year who is heading into his 16th season, is the early favorite to land the role, with Rosen and Tagovailoa expected to compete for the backup job.
The long-term vision for the franchise is to have Tagovailoa at the helm in due time.
“You always want competition in training camp so every position is an open competition,” Flores said vaguely of his quarterback battle.
“Obviously, some players are further ahead than others, and I think we all know and understand that. We want competition and there are no jobs that are just going to be handed out.”
For now, the message Flores wants Tagovailoa to grasp at the start of his first NFL training camp, which has already been affected by new COVID-19 procedures, is clear:
“We’re going to ask [him] to do the same as every other player,” Flores said. “To come in every day, having gone over the install the night before, mentally prepare to go out there and practice, physically prepare to go out there and try to improve every day. That’s all we can ask of the players, and try to keep it one day at a time, and keep the meetings to the walk though, the walk-throughs into the individual period, the individual period to the group periods, the group periods into the team periods and just take things one step at a time. …
“This is a different year. This is a different type of training camp. No one has gone through a training camp like this where a lot of meetings are virtually and there was no spring, there are no preseason games. No one has done this. So, instead of looking into the future, I rather just take a one-day-at-a-time approach and that’s the message I’m going to give to the team as well.”