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Tua Tagovailoa on importance of winning combine medical exam: 'No one can tell if it’s going to heal correctly'

Eric Edholm
·5 min read
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Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa knows that the waiting is the hardest part.

And he also realizes that until NFL medical officials examine his worrisome hip injury at the scouting combine next month, his 2020 draft projection remains cloudy at best.

Asked Thursday on the set of Fox Sports’ “First Things First” show in Miami, Tagovailoa said he knows that it’s too tricky — and too early — to think about how high he might be selected until the medical reports come in.

“It’s just hard, especially with the injury,” Tagovailoa said. “No one can really tell if it’s going to heal correctly, [or] if it isn’t.

“That’s why I think at the combine ... my main focus is to win my medical. That’s pretty much it. Everyone else is going to be there to win the 40, win the bench press. My main concern is to go over there and win my MRI, win my CT scan there.”

The first part of that quotation reads in a frightening way. But Tagovailoa just appears to be earnest in his self-assessment here. While other NFL draft prospects might be coached to sell up their own stock with over-the-top confidence, it’s a bit refreshing that Tagovailoa is speaking with candor and perspective.

To this point in the process, however, it appears Tagovailoa is keeping an even keel on his situation. He smiled throughout the interview and spoke with an upbeat disposition.

When he made the rounds to Yahoo Sports on Radio Row in Miami during Super Bowl week, he told our Liz Loza, “We’re on pace to a full recovery, but to this point we’re just rehabbing, getting ready for the combine.”

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is keeping an even keel on his hip injury . but understands that his future is somewhat out of his hands now. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM )
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is keeping an even keel on his hip injury but understands that his future is somewhat out of his hands now. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM )

It’s hard not to think that NFL talent evaluators will appreciate this perspective. The NFL is all about dealing with adversity, and to this point Tagovailoa — who has experienced more success through high school and college than 99 percent of the prospects out there — is showing he can exercise some equanimity during this long, arduous process.

If healthy, Tagovailoa could be a top-five selection. If there are complications or concerns over his health and timetable in returning to the field, Tagovailoa’s stock could free fall. The coming weeks and months should give us some clarity on the situation.

The next steps in Tua’s recovery

Tagovailoa underwent surgery to repair his dislocated hip and posterior wall fracture — an injury most often seen in high-speed motor-vehicle accidents — on Nov. 18 after he was hurt against Mississippi State. The surgery was performed by one of the field’s leading orthopedic surgeons, Dr. Chip Routt, at the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston.

He then was flown back to Alabama to be cared for by the Alabama medical staff for his rehabilitation. Alabama team physician Dr. Lyle Cain, of the Andrews Sports Clinic, issued a statement at the time that Tagovailoa’s procedure was “successful” and that his “prognosis is excellent,” adding that Dr. Cain and his staff “expect him to make a full recovery.”

The fact that the team medical staff immediately reduced — in essence, reset — Tagovailoa’s hip following the injury is considered a big positive in his recovery.

The next major milestone in that process is the three-month post-surgery mark, which will be on or around Feb. 18, when Tagovailoa will have his hip imaged and re-evaluated. Prospects begin to arrive at the combine a few days later on Feb. 23 for registration, and medical evaluations begin with players the following day and continue throughout the week that follows.

It will be a critical week for Tagovailoa in terms of getting a clearer picture of where he is in his rehabilitation. Tagovailoa appeared to suggest that the imaging could occur a little more than a week earlier than expected, on Feb. 10.

“I think up to this point, what I’m most worried about is getting the CT scan done with our MRIs after the three-month mark, so it wouldn’t be this upcoming Monday but the following week,” Tagovailoa said. “Once we kind of get a gauge on the healing process from there, then I think that’s when the doctors would be able to communicate with me and my family and tell us we’re going to be good or hears things we need to be cautious about still.”

Assuming the progress is good and doctors sign off on it, Tagovailoa is also expected to conduct a workout for NFL evaluators — either at Alabama’s pro day on March 24 or sometime later in April — that will include 60 to 80 throws. Agent Leigh Steinberg has said that Tagovailoa is meeting with teams at the Super Bowl and is pledging “total honesty” to all of them throughout the process.

Here’s the full interview:

Tua was ‘close to staying’ at ’Bama

Tagovailoa also spent time on the set ofPFT Live” on Monday, admitting that he had a difficult time deciding his future before entering the 2020 NFL draft. In fact, Tagovailoa said he nearly stayed in school.

“I was very close [to staying at Alabama],” Tagovailoa said. “I sat down with my family, my parents, got to see where their hearts were with this whole thing.”

He ultimately chose to go to the league and roll the dice on good medical reports.

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